The Shia dominated government of Iraq has issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni Vice President,Tariq al-Hashemi, charging him with running a hit squad that killed government officials.
Acting just a day after American forces completed their withdrawal, the government issued an arrest warrant Monday for Tariq al-Hashemi, the country's highest-ranking Sunni official. The step risks tearing at the same sectarian fault lines that pushed Iraq to the edge of civil war just a few years ago - a prospect that is all the more dire with no U.S. forces on the ground.
Responding to the accusations, al-Hashemi told a televised news conference Tuesday that he has not committed any "sin" against Iraq and described the charges as "fabricated." He accused the Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, of being behind a plot to smear him and declared that efforts at national reconciliation had been blown apart.
"I'm shocked by all these things," al-Hashemi told reporters in the northern city of Irbil. "I swear to God that al-Hashemi didn't commit any sin or do anything wrong against any Iraqi either today or tomorrow and this is my pledge to God."
He said the arrest warrant was a campaign to "embarrass" him. He blamed al-Maliki, although he did not say specifically what he believed the Shiite premier had done.
"Al-Maliki is behind the whole issue. The country is in the hands of al-Maliki. All the efforts that have been exerted to reach national reconciliation and to unite Iraq are now gone. So yes, I blame al-Maliki," he said.
If the charges are true, that would make al-Hashemi even with Maliki. It was rumored for years that Maliki was behind Interior Ministry death squads that murdered thousands of Sunnis.
Are there enough people of good will on both sides who can stop another sectarian bloodletting? Don't bet on it. It's entirely possible that both sides were waiting for the US to leave in order to continue the cycle of violence that, if unchecked, would quickly turn Iraq into a failed state. It's almost like kids whose parents have left on a long trip and are now free to indulge themselves. Without the stabilizing influence of the American military, it is entirely possible that civil war will break out.
This may not be the catalyst. But it certainly isn't helping matters.
The sad fact is, the forces that are trying to pull Iraq apart have always been stronger than the forces trying to unite them. In that calculus lies the seeds of Iraq's destruction.