Iraq in turmoil after arrest warrant issued for top Sunni leader

The Takeaway

As the U.S. military pulled out of Iraq, the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government was plotting a move against one of the country’s top Sunni politicians.

On Monday, Iraqi officials issued an arrest warrant for Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, alleging he was behind the assassinations of police officers and government officials. He has denied the charges.

Jack Healy, a Baghdad-based reporter for The New York Times, said al-Hashimi is essentially accused of running a death squad with his aids. The government alleged that he had personally paid his body guards after they conducted some of the hits.

“It was a pretty explosive charge,” Healy said, “and now we’re seeing some of the ramifications in the political process.”

The move, which many say is politically motivated, has ignited a storm of controversy, with many top Sunni ministers threatening to quit the government. If that happened, it could send the country back into tumult.

Healy said this will be a major test of Iraq’s coalition government. It was only a year ago that warring factions within the government finally managed to come together to make a government that had U.S. blessing.

This has the potential to pull the wheels off of things, Healy said.

“They couldn’t even get enough members of Parliament together the other day to hold the session,” he said. “There’s not going to be another session of Parliament until after the New Years, which speaks to the political paralysis in some facets of the government.”

Though all hope shouldn’t be lost. Healy said Iraq his this way of walking up to the brink of disaster and then somehow finding a way to walk things back.

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