Tariq al-Hashemi, the vice president of Iraq who is now a fugitive as a result of an arrest warrant issued by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, has warned that Iraq is on the verge of breaking apart.
Hashemi, who fled Baghdad in December after being accused of running a death squad to murder his political opponents, told the BBC that the charges were politically motivated and that his former bodyguards were tortured into giving false testimony.
The Sunni Hashemi accuses Maliki, a Shia, of pursing policies of sectarian polarization and violence that may lead to the kind of sectarian strife that claimed thousands of Iraqi lives in 2006 and 2007.
He also alleged that Maliki seeks to divert the political process into some sort of autocratic regime.”
Unless urgent steps are immediately taken, Hashemi warned, Iraq could split apart.
The same day Hashemi made his warnings, three dozen people were killed in a wave of bombings across Iraq.
Since fleeing the capital he has lived in exile in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, but has recently made trips to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Hashemi, who stills considers himself Iraq’s vice president, is the nation’s highest ranking Sunni Muslim politician, while Maliki and much of the Cabinet are Shias. Much of the sectarian violence that periodically erupts in Iraq is framed along the ancient Sunni-Shia schism.
Hashemi also claimed Iran, a Shia power, is behind some of the sectarian conflict in Iraq.
He told Today’s Zaman, an English-language Turkish newspaper, that Iran is illegally sending weapons to President Bashar al- Assad in Syria through Iraqi airspace. (Iraq is located between Iran and Syria).
Hashemi also said he is seeking an alliance with Kurdish political parties and some Shias in order to topple Maliki before the next elections are held in 2014.
Indeed, while visiting Turkey, Hashemi met with Massoud Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdish leader, as well as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.