A few weeks back there was a bombing outside of Iraq's parliament which made waves there, since it had penetrated what is supposed to be the toughest security in Baghdad during a period of less violence compared to previous years in Iraq (there was a bombing on Iraq's parliament back in 2007 earlier during the peak of violence in Iraq). It apparently seemed to have missed its target and was botched, leading to speculation as to what its target was. Accusations were leveled then that this was an inside job since the bomber was able to pass through all the checkpoints, and Maliki eventually escalated that this was in fact an assassination attempt on him.
So it was in this atmosphere that Maliki started a crackdown on his government, focusing on one of the vice presidents, Tariq al-Hashemi. Hashemi is a member of a Sunni Islamist party that ran as a part of Iyad Alawi's Al-Iraqiyah coalition, who he accused of leading assassination hits and death squads. Maliki attempted to have Hashemi arrested, going so far as to storm an airplane and beat up a body guard in the process and gave him two days to show that he was innocent of the charges placed against him.
Subsequently Hashemi fled to Iraqi Kurdistan, which due to its autonomous arrangements with Iraq means it runs its own security and legal institutions- essentially giving Hashemi immunity from Baghdad so long as Kurdish leaders continue to protect him. For his part Hashemi later commented from the Kurdistan region's capital in Erbil that these charges were unfair and politically motivated. He says that the 'confession' given by his bodyguard was forced and staged for cameras to embarrass him and justify Maliki's strong handed approach. He said he will be open to standing trial, but only within the courts of the Kurdistan region.
Back in Baghdad, one of the Deputy PM's, Saleh al-Mutlaq, whose rivalries with Maliki is known (he has charged Maliki with dictatorial tendencies in the past and himself has been labelled as a Ba'athist and barred from elections in 2010) has once again leveled the dictator charge. He compared him unfavorably to Saddam Hussein, claiming that while both were bad, Saddam 'built' and did things where as Maliki has only sat around focused on his own power and corruption. Mutlaq ended up getting in the center of attempts by Maliki to dismiss him by calling a vote of no confidence against him. Mutlaq ended up going to the Kurdistan region to join Hashemi in his press conference, and were joined by other opposition figures like Iyad Alawi and Muqtada al-Sadr.
Maliki has issued to the Kurdistan Regional Government that they must return Hashemi. They have refused so long as the current atmosphere persists. Maliki in turn retaliated that as long as this persists he'll end the power sharing arrangements which incorporated Sunni and Kurdish leaders in to the government.
Two articles giving a good overview of events right now, not withstanding any opinions the writers may put in.
Source (text copied in case this goes behind a paywall later) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/22/world/middleeast/iraqi-leader-threatens-to-abandon-power-sharing.html
Iraqi Leader Threatens to Abandon Power-Sharing
By TIM ARANGO and YASIR GHAZI
BAGHDAD — Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq threatened on Wednesday to abandon an American-backed power sharing government created a year ago, throwing the country’s fragile democracy into further turmoil just days after the departure of American troops.
In a nearly 90-minute news conference aired on tape-delay on state television, Mr. Maliki defied his rivals and pushed back on all fronts in Iraq’s burgeoning political crisis, threatening to release investigatory files that he claimed show his opponents have been involved in terrorism.
He told Kurdish leaders that there would be “problems” if they do not turn over Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who fled to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in recent days to escape an arrest warrant on charges he ran a death squad responsible for assassinations and bombings.
The Iraqi leader, a Shiite, also issued a warning to his rivals from Iraqiya, the largely Sunni bloc of lawmakers that includes Mr. Hashemi: if it does not end its boycott of Parliament and the Council of Ministers, he would move to form a majority government that would, in essence, exclude them from power.
If Iraqiya’s ministers do not show up at future sessions, he said, “we will appoint replacements.”
The news conference was the first time the nation had heard directly from its prime minister since the controversy erupted several days ago.
The crisis was triggered when the Shiite-dominated government issued its arrest warrant for Mr. Hashemi, the top Sunni politician, on terrorism charges. Mr. Maliki did offer a small attempt to defuse tensions by calling for a conference of Iraq’s political elite to discuss the matter. If the issue cannot be resolved, he said he would “move toward forming a majority government.”
But his efforts at conciliation seemed to end there.
Public life in Iraq is one of perpetual crisis, but some analysts say this is the worst political instability here in years. It is certainly the gravest predicament for the country’s young democracy in the period since it took nearly eight months to form a government after last year’s parliamentary elections.
In calling for the Kurds to turn over Mr. Hashemi, Mr. Maliki risked alienating a powerful minority that operates in its own semi-autonomous region and whose support he would need to form a new government without the support of the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya. While in the north, Mr. Hashemi is largely out of reach of Mr. Maliki’s security forces, and from there could easily flee the country.
“We demand the Kurdistan region hand him over, and to bear the responsibility and do their duty,” Mr. Maliki said. “If he escapes this will create problems.”
Iraq now faces myriad political problems that in sum could derail the national unity government, which American diplomats helped craft last year and which is supposed to include meaningful roles for Iraq’s three major factions — Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. This, in turn, raises fears of a return to rampant sectarian and factional violence — although so far it appears that the infighting has remained confined to the arena of politics.
There has been no recent spike in attacks. But the latest problems have laid bare the sectarian fissures still pervasive in society despite ongoing reconciliation efforts, encouraged by American diplomats, in the years since a sectarian civil war nearly tore apart the country.
The government’s actions against Mr. Hashemi — regardless of the veracity of the allegations — are seen by many Sunnis through a sectarian lens. The minority Sunni community, which had dominated Iraq’s affairs under Saddam Hussein, feels increasingly marginalized.
Mr. Maliki has also recently sought a vote of no-confidence from Parliament against another Sunni leader, the Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, for calling Mr. Maliki a “dictator” in a television interview.
“Although Maliki is going after political rivals, his impulsive actions have the same consequences to Iraq’s stability as if he were targeting the Sunni community as a whole,” said Ramzy Mardini, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington. “The Iraqiya bloc is simultaneously Maliki’s main political rival and represents the Sunni community.”
All of this comes just after the final withdrawal of American troops at the weekend, after nearly nine years of war that began with the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated government. The departure of the Americans left behind a country that President Obama described as “stable and self-reliant.”
As the last American military convoy departed on Sunday morning, the crisis was already brewing. Iraqiya began a boycott of Parliament on Saturday, as rumors swirled in Baghdad that a tank had been placed outside Mr. Hashemi’s compound in the Green Zone, the fortified power center in the capital, and that some of Mr. Hashemi’s guards had been arrested.
By Sunday evening Mr. Hashemi was briefly barred from boarding a flight to the Kurdish north. On Monday night state television was playing taped confessions by Mr. Hashemi’s guards, who said they had carried out killings and bombings on the vice president’s orders. Mr. Hashemi, in a news conference Tuesday, angrily denied the charges and said they were fabricated.
Many Iraqis feared the consequences of a power vacuum left in the wake of the departing American troops, but most did not anticipate the country’s precarious politics to disintegrate so quickly.
“I was expecting this to happen, but not so soon,” said Saif Abdul Salaam, a barber in Adhamiya, a largely Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad. “The Sunnis are angry, but they can’t do anything because they don’t control anything.”
Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, has called on authorities in the autonomous Kurdish region to hand over Tariq al-Hashimi, the country's vice president who is wanted on allegations of running a death squad.
"We call for the government of the Kurdistan region to take its responsibility and hand over Hashimi to the justice system," Maliki told a news conference in Baghdad on Wednesday. "We do not accept any interference in Iraqi justice."
Maliki also rejected Hashimi's calls for Arab League representatives to observe the investigation and any questioning, telling reporters: "This is a criminal case, and there is no need for the Arab League and the world to have a role in this."
Officials issued the warrant for Hashimi's arrest on Monday, after earlier banning him from leaving the country. The accusations date back to the height of the war in 2006 and 2007, when neighbours turned on neighbours and whole sections of Baghdad were divided along sectarian lines.
Hashimi has rejected the charges against him, while the US has urged calm in a row that has raised questions about the stability of the country and reignited sectarian tensions just days after the final withdrawal of US troops.
Joe Biden, the US vice president, who visited Iraq earlier this month ahead of the pullout, said the US was monitoring conditions in Iraq closely and remained committed to a long-term strategic partnership.
"The vice president also stressed the urgent need for the prime minister and the leaders of the other major blocs to meet and work through their differences together," the White House said in a statement.
The latest intrigue has raised suspicions that Maliki, a Shia, ordered the arrest of the vice president as part of a campaign to consolidate his hold on power.
'I blame Maliki' Kurdish leaders have been trying to work out a solution, sheltering Hashimi from arrest in their semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq.
It is unlikely they will agree to hand over the vice president, said Al Jazeera's Omar al-Saleh, reporting from the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
"Kurdish officials in the region said that they will never hand the vice president back to Baghdad because as things stand now he is a suspect and he's not convicted of any crime; and he came in his capacity as vice president of this country, so he is a guest in other words," our correspondent said.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Hashimi said: "I swear to God that Hashimi didn't commit any sin or do anything wrong against any Iraqi either now or in the future and this is my pledge to God." He spoke from the Kurdish city of Erbil, where he travelled on Sunday after learning that authorities were preparing to arrest him.
He described the confessions of his bodyguards that aired on Iraqi state TV as "fabricated" and the charges as a campaign to "embarrass" him.
"Maliki is behind the whole issue. The country is in the hands of Maliki. All the efforts that have been exerted to reach national reconciliation and to unite Iraq are now gone. So yes, I blame Maliki," he said.
On Monday, state-run television aired what it characterised as confessions by men said to be bodyguards for Hashimi.
The men said they killed officials working in the health ministry and foreign ministry as well as Baghdad police officers, and that they received $3,000 from Hashimi for each attack.
Maliki effectively runs the interior ministry, where the charges originated.
Tariq al-Hashemi, Iraq's Sunni vice president, is a wanted man, but his allies say the country is being driven into sectarian conflict.
Al-Hashemi has strongly denied claims that he ran a death squad that targeted senior politicians. The accusations date back to the height of the war in 2006 and 2007, but the arrest warrant against Iraq's most senior Sunni politician for allegedly planning attacks against government officials was issued just days after the departure of US troops.
Al-Hashemi is an outspoken critic of Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's Shia prime minister, and last weekend his Iraqiya political bloc boycotted parliament because al-Maliki refused to give up control over key posts. They have accused the prime minister of trying to divide the country. Although it is a secular bloc, Iraqiya has the support of many Sunnis.
On Tuesday, al-Hashemi held a press conference in the Kurdish town of Irbil, where he dismissed the accusations against him as purely political and said: "Maliki is behind the whole issue. The country is in the hands of Maliki. All the efforts that have been exerted to reach national reconciliation and to unite Iraq are now gone. So yes, I blame Maliki."
In a brief statement, Jalal Talabani, Iraq's president, said he was surprised at the announcement of the warrant and that the matter should be dealt with quietly.
After a long impasse, Iraq's main political parties agreed to a power sharing deal last year. The deal splits the prime minister's office, presidency, two deputy prime ministers and two vice-presidents among Shia, Sunni and Kurdish officials.
Al-Maliki has been accused of cracking down on political opponents and in addition to the arrest warrant issued for al-Hashemi, al-Maliki has called for a vote of no confidence in his own deputy, Saleh al-Mutlaq. Al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq are the top two Sunni politicians in Iraq. So, are the charges against the Iraqi vice president politically motivated? And what effect will this have on Iraq's political scene? With US troops now gone, is Iraq about to become more unstable and could sectarian tensions flare?
Inside Story, with presenter Hazem Sika, discusses with guests: Saad al-Muttalibi, a member of the State of Law Coalition and a former director of international affairs at the Ministry of National Dialogue; Hiwa Osman, a writer and commentator as well as a former media advisor to President Jalal Talabani; and Ali al-Saffar, a Middle East analyst at the Economic Intelligence Unit.
"In Iraq perception usually trumps reality, and the perception here is that this is a politicised movement against Tariq al-Hashemi ... I think the timing and the way it's been managed [is] going to raise that topic of politicisation, of sectarianisation."
Note: The Iraqiya bloc declined to appear on the progamme.
Maliki should ask for a neutral third party to oversee the evidence and rule on whether the charges are valid. If so let the trial proceed in a neutral third party court agreed upon by both sides.
Anlushac11;5595315Maliki should ask for a neutral third party to oversee the evidence and rule on whether the charges are valid. If so let the trial proceed in a neutral third party court agreed upon by both sides.
I guess that's the idea of Hashimi's reasoning with demanding a trial within the Kurdistan region as opposed to the other parts of Iraq where the judicial system is influenced by patronage and ultimately the government itself. After all if he was guilty, then it would be proven there. Technically Maliki didn't even bring in evidence beyond a probably forced confession from one of the bodyguards they roughed up, and instead challenged Hashimi to prove he is innocent.
Bringing in an outside observer could bring mixed messages or possibilities. It could be that Hashimi, who has been critical of the US in the past, is either worried that such groups will be more receptive to Maliki's opinions or the angle that it would look hypocritical and embarrassing to call on foreign help here. From Maliki's perspective it would only confirm the charges of his opponents that the government of Iraq is too corrupt and incompetent to be objective in these matters and follow rule of law rather than personal allegiances to do this on their own.
Though Hashimi has already swallowed some of his pride I suppose, having fled to the Kurdistan region which he has been hostile if not hateful towards, both the people and the government.
IMHO the Kurds are very keen on keeping the elected Government working. At least now they have a seat and voice in the politics of the Country.
Yeah, though they come into conflicts with the central government over oil sharing and the status of Kirkuk- same thing that has caused divisions between Kurds and the central government since the days of the Kingdom.
Their interest in the central government is more to ensure they'll retain their unique autonomous position that gives them ability to do their own affairs without moving to independence, which would only earn the ire of countries like Turkey and Iran due to Kurdish populations within their own borders. Autonomy is good for them- so long as the government in Baghdad wants to continue that with the provisions for autonomy and solving the conditions of Kirkuk as set forth by Article 140.
This whole power sharing arrangements is chaotic though, magnification of the same mess that Lebanon has to avoid preference of one group over another. Like Lebanon which stipulates that the President must be from a Christian group, the PM from Sunni Arabs, and the Speaker from Shi'a (and ministries split accordingly), Iraq has pretty much set up an informal system where Iraq's president has thus far been a Kurd, the PM a Shi'a, and the Speaker a Sunni, with executive cabinet positions split up among them.
Kurdish politicians have their share of corruption and cronyism- but it says a lot when by comparison to the rest of Iraq Kurdish administration appears to be more competent at its job. More so when you get politicians like Mutlaq and Hashemi who have been disdainful towards the creation of Kurdistan's autonomy and their perceived 'sellout' to western interests but happen to be the only place in Iraq they might feel safe in.
Even with some of the recent events though it'll still be problematic. Maliki knows the Kurds value their cabinet posts and that's why he tossed the threat about removing those ministers, but at the same time the Kurds want a way to get back at him over the oil problems. Still though, the recent mass bombings in Baghdad have resulted in more finger pointing and threats about this and parliament has apparently gotten into a standstill. Hashemi gave some statements recently for what it's worth.
This drama has been simmering for some time, as Hashemi has not been in Baghdad since he fled into Iraqi Kurdistan. From Iraqi Kurdistan he eventually made his way to Turkey, where he is now currently. The Maliki government pursued the trial anyways with Hashemi in absentia and sentenced him to death in relation to the charges I had above.
Needless to say this hasn't gone over well with the main Sunni Arab block that is in opposition, or the Kurdish coalition which is having a falling out with Maliki. That and some of the recent violence this month (some today), it's a tense situation with a sectarian dimension.
Red Menace;5659975Sentencing members of the opposition to death in absentia? Sounds like they are settling in to their role as beacon of Middle East democracy nicely.
If this was Iran, I imagine the United States would have thrown a fit over it, instead of issuing the usual "concerns" and the like. What was once given a pass as a necessary "expedient" against Communism has shifted towards "fundamentalism", and bonus points if they have something tied up with regional security. Same goes with the life sentences handed down to protestor leaders in Bahrain.
Mess of a thing to handle for the states though, since Maliki manipulates his relationship between the US and Iran, playing of the fears of the other that he will completely swing towards their rival.
Voice of joy and sunshine
26th May 2003
If it was Iran, I doubt the US would actually do anything about it - the more fits people throw with less consequences the weaker they end up looking.