28 December 2011 / TODAY'S ZAMAN, ANKARA
Tariq al-Hashemi, the top Sunni official and the vice president of Iraq, has claimed he was “paying the price” of standing up against Iranian influence in Iraq and trying to convince Sunni insurgents to lay down arms and engage in politics, more than a week after an order for his arrest was issued by Baghdad in what he called an effort to remove him from the Iraqi political scene.
“I have paid a heavy price for continuously challenging Iranian influence in Iraq and trying to lead Sunni insurgents -- who took up arms in 2003 in rebellion -- to peaceful methods and convince them to engage in politics instead,” Hashemi said to local news outlet al Sumaria News, which was quoted by the Anatolian news agency on Tuesday. Hashemi was charged with running a gang of paid hitmen with the aim of murdering rival politicians and security officials, allegations he denied from President Jalal Talabani's guesthouse in Sulaimaniya, where he fled to dodge the Baghdad warrant. Hashemi said the charges were baseless and politically motivated by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is “trying to establish his one-man rule in the country by eliminating influential politicians of Sunni background,” starting with Hashemi.
Pointing to Iran as being behind Maliki's campaign to gather more power in the hands of the Shiite bloc, Hashemi also claimed that “Iran made its influence in Iraq no secret,” referring to announcements from a chief Iranian general who said that Iranian clout would widen as the US withdrew from Iraq. The last group of US soldiers left Iraq a day before the arrest warrant was issued for Hashemi's capture, leaving the country in a conflict with an increasing power struggle along sectarian and ethnic lines, with no support from US troops to keep the strife free of blood.
Following the warrant and accompanied by a parliamentary protest from the main Sunni bloc, Iraqiya, multiple bombings ripped across Baghdad, killing more than 70 people in mostly Shiite populated neighborhoods. An al-Qaeda branch in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attacks, reportedly to avenge Sunni prisoners in Iraqi cells.
Hashemi further stated that he risked his life and his family's well being, while he tried to pacify the Sunni insurgents and lost two relatives -- allegedly for his campaign for peaceful politics instead of arms. He expressed his sorrow over being accused of terrorism, while he endlessly fought against the notion in Iraq for years, Anatolia reported