Via Meadia has been following Iraqi politics these days with much interest. The long knives are coming out: Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s rivals, like former Vice President Tariq Hashemi and Massoud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan, accuse him of becoming dictatorial and pushing Iraq back to the brink of sectarian conflict. Maliki accuses his rivals of conspiring against him (Barzani and Hashemi have both been drumming up support against Maliki in the palaces of the Middle East’s anti-Iran coalition—Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia), “running death squads”, and now murder.From the BBC:
Iraq’s fugitive Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi has been charged with several murders, including those of six judges, court officials in Baghdad say.“There are many crimes that Hashemi and his guards are accused of and there were confessions obtained, including on the assassinations of six judges, mostly from Baghdad,” said Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, a spokesman for the council [the Supreme Judiciary Council].
Hashemi or his henchmen might indeed be guilty, but it’s more likely these are politically motivated accusations. (The two possibilities are not mutually exclusive.) Maliki’s camp is threatened by Hashemi and his connections in the Kurdistan Regional Government and with powerful governments abroad. Yet numerous other high officials in Baghdad and the provinces probably have similar skeletons in the closet. During the civil war, violence was widespread on all sides, and political assassinations and intimidation campaigns have become common again after the withdrawal of American troops.Writing at Foreign Policy last week, James Traub said: “Iraq under Maliki has become a deeply fragmented state with superficial democratic characteristics, and a net exporter of sectarianism.” By stepping up attacks on his political rivals Maliki might be able to consolidate his own hold on power, but it doesn’t look as if his Iraqi opponents are willing to remain passive while he entrenches himself.Via Meadia isn’t going to be writing many life insurance policies on Iraqi politicians any time soon.[Updated version}