The day after U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq, Tariq al-Hashemi, Iraq’s Sunni Vice President, went on the lam, fearing arrest. Hashemi is believed to be in Kurdistan. A second Vice President, Adil Abdul-Mahadi is Shia. Jalal Talabani serves as the current transitional President of the country. Talabani is Sunni, a non-Arab from Kurdistan. Some faction of the Government has accused Hashemi of conspiring to assassinate other Government officials. Saddam Hussain was a Sunni. The larger part of the world’s Muslims are Sunni.
The move against Iraq’s highest-ranking Sunni elected leader marked a sharp escalation in sectarian tension, raising fear of a resurgence of mass bloodshed. Although many Iraqis had welcomed the American withdrawal, there was also considerable fear violence would worsen afterward. “Iraq is slipping into its worst nightmares now, and Iraqi people will pay a high price because of the struggle among political blocs,” predicted one Shia analyst, Kadhum al-Muqdadi, in Baghdad.
Hashemi is a longstanding rival to prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the arrest order came two days after the main Sunni political bloc, Iraqiya, suspended its participation in parliament because al-Maliki refused to give up control over key posts. Al-Maliki, a Shia, has made moves in recent months to consolidate his power. Hundreds of former members of the Ba’ath party of Saddam Hussein have been rounded up as security threats, although no proof has been given.