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Iraq Under Pressure

Samara Greenberg

As the last U.S. troops left Iraq, the country was thrown into a Sunni-Shiite political conflict with the potential to erupt.

On Monday, an Iraqi investigative committee under the control of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued an arrest warrant for the country’s Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, for allegedly running hit squads and planning deadly attacks against government officials. The warrant, issued under the country’s anti-terrorism law, mostly covers attacks during 2006 and 2007, but also includes a bomb that exploded last month in the green zone, which Prime Minister al-Maliki claimed targeted him.

An Iraqi newspaper describes Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi as “wanted.”

The arrest warrant came as the Iraqiya movement, the Sunni political bloc in government to which al-Hashimi belongs, announced it was boycotting parliament. The bloc contends that al-Maliki is trying to amass dictatorial power and will now make his move to consolidate control over the Sunnis with the Americans gone.

Vice President al-Hashimi yesterday denied the charges in a televised news conference held in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq, where he has found protection from Baghdad for the time being. That conference was met with anger by the Shiite prime minister, who told Kurdish authorities on Wednesday to hand over the vice president. He also threatened to abandon the current unity government — crafted with the help of the Americans to balance the strength of Iraq’s three major factions — by appointing “replacements” if Iraqiya’s ministers fail to show up to future parliament sessions.

It certainly didn’t take long for the political situation to break down in Iraq, highlighting the role that the U.S. played as a stabilizer for the country’s new government and political order. What happens now is anyone’s guess.