The Middle East Channel

Arrest warrant for Vice President Hashemi sparks political turmoil in Iraq

Arrest warrant for Vice President Hashemi sparks political turmoil in Iraq Shortly after the departure of the last convoy of U.S. troops from Iraq, the country has fallen into heightened political turmoil and escalated sectarian tension. On Monday, Iraq’s Shiite-led government under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a warrant for the arrest of Sunni Vice ...

Arrest warrant for Vice President Hashemi sparks political turmoil in Iraq

Shortly after the departure of the last convoy of U.S. troops from Iraq, the country has fallen into heightened political turmoil and escalated sectarian tension. On Monday, Iraq’s Shiite-led government under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a warrant for the arrest of Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on charges of terrorism, after three men came forward saying they served as Hashemi’s bodyguards and conducted bombings and assassinations — killing at least six government officials on his behalf. The allegations included an incident that, according to Maliki, was a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister with a car bomb three weeks ago. Hashemi, who denied the charges as a “political attack“, fled to the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, saying that if tried there he would be “ready to face trial.” The warrant was issued two days after Prime Minister Maliki requested a vote of no confidence in Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. Former U.S. State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said, “The optics and timing [of the arrest warrant] are highly suspect and are likely to make a challenging political environment very poisonous.”

Headlines  

  • A pre-dawn raid by security forces on protesters in Tahrir began the fifth day of clashes in Cairo.
  • The U.N. voted to condemn Syrian violence as 60 army deserters and 40 civilians were killed. Meanwhile, an advance team of Arab League monitors will arrive in Damascus on Thursday.
  • Two soldiers and 13 al-Qaeda affiliate fighters were killed in clashes in Yemen’s southern province of Abyan.
  • Turkish forces killed 13 Kurdish militants and wounded five in the southeast Kurdish region of Turkey in part of an ongoing operation against 30 PKK fighters.
Daily Snapshot

An Iraqi man in Baghdad reads a local newspaper, featuring a front page picture of Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi with the word ‘wanted’ above his face, on December 20, 2011. Iraq’s Sunni Arab Vice-President said he was ‘ready to face trial’ on terror charges on condition that the case be heard in the autonomous Kurdish region, after a five-member judicial panel issued a warrant on December 19 for Hashemi’s arrest on terror charges, plunging Iraq into political crisis (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images).

Arguments & Analysis

‘The Hashemi arrest warrant’ (Reidar Visser, Iraq & Gulf Analysis)
“Given the symbolic timing of the arrest warrant just days after the US withdrawal from Iraq, it is hard to ignore accusations that there are political dimensions to the case. The reputation of the Iraqi judiciary is already in tatters after a series of rulings of a rather blunt pro-Maliki character. On the whole, the atmosphere seems reminiscent of the arbitrariness and outright terror that characterised the pre-election de-Baathification process in early 2010 — except perhaps that the targeted politician in this case is someone with a Sunni Islamist rather than a Baathist past. Sunnis and secularists must begin wondering whether they can all be the next target in a politicised campaign.”

‘Libya — divided it stands’ (Alastair Macdonald & Oliver Holmes, Reuters)
“As the battle raged off Highway 1 last month, tribal sheikh Mohammed al-Wershifanni said in an interview that negotiations were “going well” and that, as he put it, “we are all brothers.” Made over the din of machine-guns and mortars, his remarks sounded like a bad joke. Yet the battle did eventually end, thanks to a combination of personal engagement by the NTC leaders and the arrival of ‘neutral’ fighters they dispatched from elsewhere. So, Libya isn’t Belgium, but it’s not Somalia, either. And that leaves some outside observers cautiously optimistic. As one Western diplomat put it: “You have to respect the slow-motion Libyan way.””

‘Burning oil to keep cool: The hidden energy crisis in Saudi Arabia’ (Glada Lahn & Paul Stevens, Chatham House)
“Huge economic, social and environmental gains in energy conservation are possible in Saudi Arabia but the long period of low prices and the bureaucratic structure of the state present several challenges to implementing effective pricing policy and regulatory measures. Fear of confronting these challenges has tended to deter meaningful government action in the past.”

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