Iraqi leaders bid to resolve political crisis

Iraqi leaders bid to resolve political crisis

Iraq’s courts should decide the charges against a vice president accused of running death squads, Iraq’s Kurdish president and the Sunni speaker of parliament said on Dec. 27 in a bid to defuse the country’s worst political crisis in a year. President Jalal Talabani and speaker Osama al-Nujaifi also agreed to organize a national conference for all political blocs to ease tensions that have raised fears of a return to sectarian conflict after the last U.S. troops left nine days ago. 

The turmoil erupted when Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved against two Sunni leaders from the Iraqiya party. Maliki has sought the arrest of Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on charges he ran death squads targeting government and security officials, and has also asked parliament to fire his deputy, Saleh al-Mutlaq, after he likened Maliki to the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Talabani and Nujaifi agreed to “resolve the case of vice president Tareq al-Hashemi through judicial procedures which are provided by the law, which guarantees finding the facts in the proper way,” said a statement on the presidential website. 

Barzani in Baghdad

Meanwhile, in an op-ed published in the New York Times yesterday, Iyad Allawi, Osama al-Nujaifi and Rafa al-Essawi, leaders of the Iraqiya bloc, accused Maliki, a religious Shiite, of using security forces and the judiciary to hound his mainly Sunni opponents. “The prize, for which so many American soldiers believed they were fighting, was a functioning democratic and nonsectarian state,” they wrote. 

“But Iraq is now moving in the opposite direction -- toward a sectarian autocracy that carries with it the threat of devastating civil war.” President of the Kurdish Regional Government, Masoud Barzani, has started a series of talks in Baghdad to get the parties together for a meeting. “If the meeting is not held or if the meeting fails, then we have to go for early elections and God forbid if we have a conflict or sectarian war, we will not be party to it,” he told Al Jazeera television in an interview.