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Former Iraqi VP Charged with Murder

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}

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  • Lorenz Gude

    During Saddam’s 23 years in power he killed 450,000 according to Human Rights Watch. That doesn’t include those that died in his various wars – just the number he found necessary to kill to keep order and himself in power. With a population of about 25 million he killed about 19.5 thousand a year on average or a bit less than 1% of the population on an annual basis. Of course it wasn’t a nice steady rate. About 150,000 Shiites were discovered in mass graves after the 2003 invasion who had been killed to put down the post 1991 war uprising. I’m no fan of ‘duty to protect,’ but we protected the Kurds during that same period and left the Shiites to fend for themselves. I still shake my head in sorrow for that bit of political realism and am not sorry that we overthrew Saddam – despite the cost in Iraqi and American lives and bitter lessons learned. I think Maliki is a lot easier to understand if we remember what the Shiites suffered at Saddam’s hands. I don’t know how many people are dying in iraq in this ongoing power struggle but I am confident that it is nothing like 1% of the population per annum.

  • Kenny

    Iraq is going to fall apart before too long.

    Trying to make a decent country out of it was always a fool’s errant. Thank you neocons.

  • Jbird

    I figure every iraqi politician worth his salt has his own personal death squad.

  • Kris

    I was delightedly going to reserve “Fool Errant” as a future nick. I should have known that it was too obvious.

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