Turkey must convince Iran over Iraq: VP

Turkey must convince Iran over Iraq: VP

Deniz Kilislioğlu CNNTürk - ARBIL
Turkey must convince Iran over Iraq: VP

CNN reporter Deniz Kilislioğu (R) interviewed with Iraqi VicePresident Tariq Al-Hashemi in Iraq. Al-Hashemi hints that Turkey could potentially impose pressure on Iran, as the latter needs Turkish support over its nuclear program.

Iraq’s exiled Sunni leader, Tariq al-Hashemi, has urged international and regional countries to take tangible measures to stop the judicial process launched against him by the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, ahead of the first hearing set for May 3. He particularly focused on Turkey, asking it to try to pressure Iran against interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq.

“I expect tangible measures. Steps should be taken to stop this illegal judicial process. Everyone should admit this is a strategically important case,” al-Hashemi said in an interview in northern Iraq, where he has been hosted by Iraqi Kurdish leaders following Maliki’s attempt to arrest him for his alleged links to terrorist acts. The move, which came only days after American troops withdrew from Iraq, ignited the Sunni-Shiite tension in Iraq and exposed Iranian influence in Iraq’s fragile political landscape.

Although al-Hashemi did not detail the tangible measures that could be taken, he hinted that Turkey could potentially impose pressure on Iran, as the latter needs Turkish support over its controversial nuclear program. “I am expecting a change in Iran’s policies. I think Iran is very much in need of Turkey. Turkey is the only mediator over its nuclear case,” he said.

“Turkey should convince Iran to leave Iraq alone and to not interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs. No one is trying to make conditions more difficult for Iran, but it should be aware of Iraq’s sovereignty and respect Iraq’s dignity,” al-Hashemi said.

Expressing thanks for the support he has received from Turkey so far, al-Hashemi underlined that this support was not lent just because he was a Sunni politician, but because Turkey wanted a stable Iraq in which all different political groups can coexist. “The support Turkey gives is not for nothing. Turkey would also defend al-Maliki if he faced similar injustice,” he stated. “I hope that Turkey and other regional countries will take this issue within the frame of respect for the Office of the Vice President and legal values, rather than as my personal problem.”

The role Americans played in the eruption of the Sunni-Shiite crisis is also significant, al-Hashemi suggested, criticizing Washington for turning Iraqis adrift and for not accomplishing the mission it launched.

Hearing set for May 3

Unable to leave the residence provided to him by Iraqi Kurds, al-Hashemi is now waiting for May 3, the first hearing of his case. His earlier appeals to be tried in a city other than Baghdad were refused by the court. Although his political career is at stake, he now declares that, under current conditions, he will not set foot in the capital.

“I exercise my entire freedom without any restrictions, without any constraint. But al-Maliki destroyed my entire structure in Baghdad. All my bodyguards have been arrested, my possessions have been taken,” he said.

Not seeking refuge outside Iraq

The Sunni leader talked warmly about the hospitability he received from Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and from the President of Iraqi Kurdistan’s regional Government, Massoud Barzani. The duration of his stay in northern Iraq depends on the case, he underlined, denying that he has plans to flee Iraq. Both Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu are encouraging him to stay in Iraq, but he does not leave the door closed for a brief visit to Turkey in the near future.

The “lonely man” of Iraq appears to be resentful and sad, but al-Hashemi is still trying to appear powerful, and lives in the hope of returning to Baghdad one day. “I am still the vice president of Iraq,” he said.