Syria is not the only place where the Sunni / Shiite divide is heating up. It’s also manifesting itself at the highest levels of government in Shiite-controlled Iraq. Last December, it was learned that an arrest warrant had been issued for Iraq’s Sunni Vice President – Tariq al-Hashemi – who fled to northern Iraq to escape terrorism charges.
Now, after recently fleeing to Qatar, the Iraqi government is demanding that Qatar send him back to Iraq.
Via BBC News:
Iraq has demanded Qatar hand over its fugitive Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi after he began what the emirate described as an “official visit”.
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said Qatar hosting a wanted person was an “unacceptable act” and that it should “return him to Iraq”.
Mr Hashemi had been holed up in Iraqi Kurdistan since December, when he was accused of financing death squads.
He has denied the charges and insisted he has constitutional immunity.
“There has not been a judicial decision against me from any court, and the demand does not respect Article 93 of the constitution, which provides me with immunity,” he told the AFP news agency on Monday.
Prime Minister Maliki also weighed in:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki told reporters on Sunday: “They must know that the accused is wanted by a country which is a member of the Arab League… so he is not supposed to be received as a vice-president, which is a violation of the nature of the international relations.”
The decision by Mr Maliki, a Shia, to issue an arrest warrant in December for Iraq’s most senior Sunni Arab politician on terrorism charges brought the country’s national unity government to the brink of collapse and sparked fears of increased sectarian unrest.
Mr Hashemi was accused of financing a personal death squad to target police, judges and officials during the height of the insurgency.
As readers of this site might remember, it’s interesting to consider that Hashemi is wanted on terrorism charges when a far more notorious terrorist – Hadi al-Ameri – holds a prestigious position inside the Iraqi cabinet; he is the transportation minister.
Al-Ameri, however, has a distinct advantage over Hashemi; he is a Shiite with loyalties to the Ayatollah.
Terrorism charges notwithstanding, the Shiite-led government of Iraq is extremely concerned about what’s going on in neighboring Syria, to the west. The prospect of it falling to the Muslim Brotherhood has the Iraqi government a bit jumpy, for sure. The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report identifies Al-Hashemi as having once belonged to a party with close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. This aggressive stance on the part of Maliki’s government relative to the country’s own vice president is intended – at least to some degree – to send a message to the Brotherhood itself.
That message? Don’t even think of trying to topple Iraq if and when you topple Syria.