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Iraq is facing renewed sectarian tension just as U.S. forces finishing leaving the country. On Monday, the Iraqi government issued an arrest warrant and travel ban on Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni. At the same time, Prime Minister al-Maliki, a Shiite, is calling for the firing of Vice Prime Minister Saleh Mutlak, a Sunni. To make matters worse, Moqtada al-Sadr says he will revive his Iranian-backed Shiite militia in 2012 if any American personnel, including civilians, remain. His forces have much Sunni blood on their hands.
The Iraqi government claims that Vice President Hashemi is involved in terrorism, an accusation he says is politically motivated and comes from Maliki. It is claimed that he has a hit squad to kill Shiite officials, including Maliki. Three of his bodyguards were arrested and 13 detained. Their testimony incriminating Hashemi was aired on television. Hashemi’s supporters believe their testimony was coerced.
“I swear to God that I never committed a sin when it comes to Iraqi blood,” Hashemi said during a press conference in Iraqi Kurdistan. He also thanked Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, for his hospitality.
Maliki is also demanding that Vice Prime Minister Saleh Mutlak, another Sunni, lose his position after he accused Maliki of acting like a dictator and being worse than Saddam Hussein. This indicates that Maliki is waging a political offensive against the Sunni leadership. This may be encouraged by Iran, as both Sunni officials consistently warn of its meddling.
It is very possible that the charges are politically-motivated, but it must be remembered that Hashemi has extremist ties. He is a leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, which is a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate. The Brotherhood has existed in Iraq since the 1940s. In November 1991, its periodical stated that there is a “U.S.-led western conspiracy which was plotting to destroy it [Iraq] in the interests of Israel and ensuring oil supplies to the western world.” One of its pamphlets explicitly said that Iraq should be an Islamic state and that “Islam would have to be re-implemented slowly and gradually” but without violence.
He and his Iraqi Islamic Party colleagues were staunch supporters of a timetable for American forces to leave and legitimized the insurgents targeting Coalition forces. “You call it ‘insurgents,’ we call it ‘resistance,’” Hashemi said, though he condemned Al-Qaeda and said the terrorist group should not be coupled with Iraqis trying to expel Coalition forces. In the same December 2006 interview, though, Hashemi noted that only 20-25,000 of the Coalition forces were combat soldiers, and said more were needed.
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