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Could Iraq descend into a civil war again? (VIDEO)

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RELATED: Leaving Iraq

Yesterday, the government issued a warrant for Mr. Hashemi's arrest, accusing him of running a death squad that targets security officials. Speaking to reporters in Irbil today, where he's now in de facto exile from Baghdad, Hashemi called the charges "fabricated.... Maliki is behind the whole issue ... all the efforts that have been exerted to reach national reconciliation and to unite Iraq are now gone."

Hashemi, an Islamist rather than a former Baathist, said he'd be willing to face trial in Kurdistan – an indirect charge that the federal judiciary is tainted by political manipulation. Iraqi TV carried footage of guards of Hashemi "confessing," though torture and coerced confessions have been commonplace in Iraq for years. 

The irony that the independence-minded Kurds like Kurdish President Massoud Barzani, repeatedly victimized by Saddam Hussein's Sunni Arab-dominated Iraq, are now being asked to shore up Sunni Arabs, should be lost on no one. But it's just one measure of how dangerous the situation has become, with the minority parties growing increasingly alarmed at the power Maliki is accruing for himself and the failure of Iraq's putative political institutions to rein him in. While the Kurds put group interests in front of national ones, they'd prefer a balancing of powers in the rest of Iraq, rather than the emergence of a single, strong Shiite Arab leader who might make their prerogatives his next target. 

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