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Ex-Iraqi Vice-president calls for international intervention - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Sunni Muslims chant "Allahu Akbar", meaning "God is great", during an anti-government demonstration in Falluja, 50 km (31 miles) west of Baghdad April 26, 2013.  (REUTERS/Mohanned Faisal)

Sunni Muslims chant “Allahu Akbar”, meaning “God is great”, during an anti-government demonstration in Falluja, 50 km (31 miles) west of Baghdad April 26, 2013. (REUTERS/Mohanned Faisal)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraq’s former Vice-President Tariq Al-Hashimi, hit out at the country’s current prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki yesterday, branding him responsible for the current sectarian crisis gripping the country.

Hashimi, the leader of Tajdid Movement, was stripped of his office and sentenced to death in absentia in September of last year, after he was accused of involvement in terrorist attacks on Shi’ite officials, on charges which he denies and says are politically motivated.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat yesterday from exile in the Turkish city of Istanbul, he accused Maliki of “being responsible for the security breakdown in Baghdad specifically, and in Iraq as a whole,” and that he was “leading an ethnic cleansing war against Sunni Arabs by inciting Shi’ites and arming Shi’ite militias to kill Sunnis.”

Hashimi said Maliki was seeking to stir up sectarian tensions in order to shore up his electoral base.

“Maliki has turned the legitimate demands of protesters in the Sunni governorates to an election agenda, inciting our Shi’ite brothers in the south and making them think these demonstrations aimed at bringing the Ba’ath Party back and remove the Shi’ite from power,” he said.

He added: “Maliki had used the state’s media and funds to promote his sectarian speeches which incite fighting, and has given Shi’ite militias free rein to display their strength in Basra and Baghdad, and allowed them to create checkpoints in the streets of the capital at a time when the commander-in-chief of the armed forces [Maliki] says this is against the law and the state does not allow arms in the hands of militias.”

The Iraqi Sunni leader said that the campaign amounted to “a war against Sunni Arabs and ethnic cleansing, where Arab Sunnis are taken from their homes and mosques, and are even killed inside their mosques, as the case was in the Sariyah massacre in Ba’aqouba, or in peaceful protest in the Huwayjah massacre.”

He demanded that “the Iraqi issue [be] internationalized,” and and called for intervention by “the Arab League, [the] Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Security Council and the United Nations, whose secretary-general’s representative in Iraq, Martin Copler, admitted that ‘Iraq was heading for the unknown,’ and that the US Administration must assume its responsibility and deliver on the promises made in 2003 when it occupied Iraq and promised to build a state of civil institutions to achieve democratic rule.

“Unfortunately, it did not deliver even on its promises to its own children who died on Iraqi soil, creating a distorted model of rule,” he said.

On the initiatives which have been recently launched in Iraq, including one by Ammar Al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council, to bring together all parties, Hashimi said: “I am with all initiatives which lead to an end to Iraqi bloodshed, however, on practical level, these initiatives will not lead to tangible results for many reasons, the most important of which is that there is no longer any trust between political parties in Iraq, and that Iraqis had lost hope in these initiatives because they have not achieved anything for them. What is more important is that, Iraqi political parties know that Maliki would not implement any agreement, even if he put his signature on it.”

He added : “there are many agreements that Maliki signed and has not implemented, the most important of which, the agreements of Erbil, which made him prime minister. As soon as he received the parliament’s vote of confidence, he turned against his political partners and refused to implement any part of the agreement.”

Hashimi said: “Before any agreement or initiative, Maliki must provide the atmosphere to build trust between him and the others, and as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, he must put an end to security practices [that discriminate] against Sunnis, and to strike at armed militias. I doubt his ability to do that, because he does not want to remove these militias and does not want to stabilize the security situation or protect the Sunni areas in Baghdad, and in the rest of Iraq.”

Given these problems, Hashimi reiterated that he believes the situation has grown so bad that it needs international intervention to be resolved peacefully.

He demanded “an Arab, Islamic or international conference be held to discuss the situation in Iraq, and to find parties which guarantee any recommendations issued by such a conference, as the case was in Sharm Al-Sheikh conference and the Mecca document, especially that Iraq was still governed by the UN’s Chapter VII, which allows the UN to intervene to bring stability.”

Hashimi concluded that “the situation in Iraq today is at its most dangerous where more than 1,000 innocent civilians have been killed and around 3,000 injured, while Maliki, who controls the armed forces and security services, and helps steal public funds, will not lift a finger. He must be held accountable and be put on trial for being directly responsible for these innocent lives and the blood which has been shed.”

He also accused the Iraqi government of making plans for further bloodshed.

“Maliki will move to push demonstrators in Ramadi, Samarra and Mosul to retaliate against his provocations, in order to carry out new massacres there,” he said.