Feature

Sunni rage in Iraq

A new wave of violence erupted in Iraq over the death sentence given to Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, one of the country’s most senior Sunni politicians.

Iraq’s deepening political crisis sparked a new wave of violence this week, after one of the country’s most senior Sunni politicians, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, was sentenced to death in absentia on what he called politically motivated terror charges. Al-Hashemi, who fled to Turkey earlier this year, was found guilty of overseeing death squads that targeted Shiite political opponents. Al-Hashemi said that the charges were concocted by his rival, Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and that the “kangaroo court’s” verdict was predetermined. Underscoring Iraq’s continued instability, a wave of bombings and insurgent attacks tore through mostly Shiite neighborhoods in more than a dozen cities the day the verdict was announced, killing at least 100 people. 

“It is hard to weigh the merits” of this politically charged case from a distance, said The New York Times in an editorial, but al-Maliki’s “blatant attempts to monopolize power” are reason enough to be suspicious. Since U.S. troops departed in December, the prime minister “has shown more interest in reprisals against the Sunni minority” than in binding the war-ravaged country together. 

Al-Maliki is on a clear path to becoming “Iraq’s next dictator,” said The Guardian (U.K.). He has ruthlessly consolidated control of the country’s security forces for his own ends, and exerted increasing influence over the intelligence services and judiciary. Having sidelined Sunnis, his “next target will be the Kurds.” Al-Maliki’s “quest for domination could drive his country back into civil war.”  

Equally troubling are al-Maliki’s deepening ties to the Shiite regime in Iran, said Tony Karon in Time.com. In July, Iraq granted Iran use of its airspace to resupply President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria, despite the angry objections of the White House. It’s surely “one of the great strategic ironies of the 21st century” that the Iraq War, which cost the U.S. so dearly in blood and treasure, ended up producing an Iraqi regime “closer to Iran than it is to the U.S.”

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