Iraq’s fugitive Vice-President Tariq Al Hashemi has been sentenced to death on charges of terrorism. In the light of regional events that influence the country, including the Syrian crisis, and the vested interests of some parties to create sectarian strife in the Arab world, there seems to be further instability in Iraq.
In the wake of thes developments, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made an earnest request that Al Hashemi not be extradited to Baghdad, adding that his friendship with Al Hashemi was 10 years old; he also praised Al Hashemi’s actions.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani expressed regret over the verdict against Al Hashemi, saying that the latter still officially served as vice-president. At the same time, he warned that this verdict complicated efforts to achieve national reconciliation.
Talabani said that he continues to hold direct talks in the hope of arranging a comprehensive national meeting, which aims to resolve differences and to reach mutually acceptable solutions to various problems, including the issue of Al Hashemi.
Also, Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan region, feels that Al Hashemi’s sentencing to death in absentia will only exacerbate the crisis that has plagued Iraq, possibly even create a bitter sectarian conflict. He called on all parties to find a wise solution to the problem and avoid the temptation of settling scores.
The Kurdish opposition condemning Al Hashemi stems from its struggle with Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki on several issues — most notably the oil contracts signed by Kurdistan without the approval of the central government in Baghdad. Recently contracts have also been signed with Turkey.
The dispute over oil rights is not the only issue between Kurdistan and Baghdad. Turkey’s involvement in Iraq reached its peak after its Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s unprecedented visit to Kirkuk, which Baghdad claimed, violated Iraq’s sovereignty. The Iraqis insist Kirkuk is part of their Arab history while the Kurds claim the region as their own.
The recent serial bombings and shootings orchestrated in Iraq by Al Qaida have killed more than 90 civilians and injured 400 others. The attacks were in retaliation to the allegations against Al Hashemi of torturing prisoners in government jails and his many attempts to distort justice.
These charges are based on suspicions that he was involved in the funding of terrorist groups in Iraq. Al Hashemi is said to have been involved in the implementation of 150 armed operations, including car bombings and rocket fires targeting Iraqi and Iranian visitors, senior officers and members of the House of Representatives.
Internationally, the US expressed concern about the escalating violence in Iraq, and called upon politicians to try to resolve their differences within the framework of the law.
The Iraqi crisis with regard to Al Hashemi highlights an imbalance of power within and outside Iraq since the withdrawal of US forces. It is said that this act is political vendetta orchestrated by Al Maliki as a means of removing political opponents starting with Eyad Allawi and Al Hashemi as a means of guaranteeing his survival as prime minister.
Furthermore, differences between Al Maliki and Al Hashemi have also increased since America’s withdrawal from Iraq. Al Hashemi has been accused of being involved in bombings, assassinations and other attacks. His own bodyguards have testified against him. The series of events that took place between 2005 and 2011 indicate that his actions were not isolated, but were a part of a political strategy aimed at Al Maliki’s opponents in Iraq. Since then, Al Maliki has also ordered the dismissal of the deputy leader in the cabinet Dr Saleh Al Mutlaq. So two of the five leaders on Al Maliki’s list of threat have been removed.
Al Maliki already has files prepared for Rafie Al Issawi, the Minister of Finance; Dr Salman Al Jumaili, head of the parliamentary bloc, among others.
But other Iraqi forces are pursuing different agendas; one party has conveyed to Al Maliki’s coalition that he must reach a peaceful settlement that keeps them at the head of the government or else they will abandon him.
International forces, predominantly the US and Iran, hope to prevent the Iraq crisis from turning chaotic thereby threatening everyone’s interests. The disagreements between Al Maliki and Al Hashemi are rather deep-rooted. There have been many differences in views since the Al Maliki government first came to power. Hostility increased further with the second term, due to the contrasting outlooks on Al Hashemi’s random arrests and mismanagement of security. There was much criticism over these acts as most victims deemed innocent were locked up in secret prisons.
The severity of the crisis increased after the Iraqi government’s interference in the recent Iranian elections — leading to protests in Iraq. Al Maliki claims that the protesters belonged to Saddam Hussain’s Baath party and Al Qaida-affiliated oragnisations, blaming Al Hashemi for instigating the entire stunt.
Dr Shakir Noori is an Iraqi writer and journalist based in Dubai.