Following a warrant issued for his arrest, the vice president and top Sunni official of Iraq, Tariq al-Hashemi, has blamed his Shiite rival Nouri al-Maliki for attempting to oust him “to hoard power” and for leading Iraq into sectarian strife, while he ruled out the possibility of a dialogue between the parliamentary blocs in light of recent developments.
“There is, without a doubt, an ongoing agenda to keep the Sunni bloc under pressure, we are moving towards a sectarian phase [in the Iraqi conflict],” Hashemi told the Erbil representative of the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) news channel on Friday. Convinced that he would not be given a chance at a fair trial, Hashemi fled to the semiautonomous Kurdish administration to the north of Baghdad immediately after the arrest warrant was issued.
Hashemi is accused of running a hit squad that targets his political rivals as well as security officials, but he denies the charges and claims Shiite Prime Minister Maliki is behind the arrest warrant to “sideline him” in the administration and hoard power for dominance of the Shiite bloc.
“They are trying to oust me because I object to intervention from Iran and other countries. Iran is a threat for Iraq,” Hashemi told TRT Turkey, as he alleged that Maliki was trying to run the country on its own through eliminating other elements of the coalition government.
“Maliki wants to get rid of us [the Sunni opposition], he had a coup planned and set it in motion when the US pulled out,” he claimed, referring to the eruption of chaos in the Iraqi government after the last batch of US troops left Iraq on Sunday.
Hashemi also said he regarded Turkey an “honest partner” and underlined that he had good relations with the country and expected ties to be even better in the future. He, however, noted that the link between him and Turkey was not sectarian in nature, despite claims to that extent. Following Hashemi's arrest warrant, media reports speculated that the vice president may flee the country and seek refuge in Turkey, but his office dismissed the allegations.
Ankara, in response, noted that Hashemi was welcome to visit Turkey “any time he desires,” being the vice president of Iraq, and suggested it would be more suitable for the top Sunni official to remain in Iraq for the time being.
Hashemi is currently in Erbil in the hope that the Kurdish administrators will not turn him in, a view shared by Ankara.
Maliki, on the other hand, has requested the Kurdistan region to “hand Hashemi over” so that he can be brought to justice in Baghdad, pledging that he would receive a fair trial while dismissing accusations that the arrest warrant was politically motivated. However, Hashemi stated that Maliki was uneasy about the developments in Syria, fearing that a regime change in the neighboring Shiite country could affect his rule negatively.
Turkey on Friday also condemned the bombings in Baghdad that claimed dozens of life, saying that the current environment in Iraq after the US pullout was being “abused” by terrorist to increase tension in the country.