On September 9th, the most violent day in Iraq since American troops withdrew from the region, it was announced that the Sunni Vice President of Iraq Tariq al-Hashimi was sentenced to death by hanging. Hashimi—a current fugitive—was not present at his trial, as he fled to Turkey following the announcement of charges. Hashimi is not in custody, despite an Interpol “red notice” that was issued on accusations of his financing terrorist attacks in Iraq in May.
Despite numerous charges including overseeing paramilitary death squads, Hashimi was only convicted for the murders of two individuals. Hashimi denies the charges, despite rumors of three separate confessions, given by his security detail. While some are condemning the sentence handed down this week, certain Sunni leaders are calling the conviction an injustice: a mere political move by Shiite politicians to severely divide the country.
Increased insurgent violence, coupled with Hashimi’s sentence, has only added fuel to the growing political fire between the Sunni and Shiite leaders. Sunday’s attacks in crowded public areas (including two markets, a crowded square, and a restaurant) killed about 79 people, and left hundreds more wounded. These assaults are unquestionably the deadliest outbreaks of insurgent violence since U.S. troops left Iraq; now, many are questioning the political stability of the country once again.
The factional differences between the Sunni and Shiite groups in Iraq have only been exacerbated by crusades for political power over the past few months. Despite Hashimi’s post-verdict statement to his followers, pleading to refrain from violent action in response to his sentencing, it is clear this ruling will only raise tensions in the region. Many are concerned that the spurious “political stability” will even further crumble, and that insurgents again will eventually uproot any type of organized government.
Was Hashimi’s verdict justified, or merely a political conspiracy to gain political control? Additionally, although America’s focus has lately shifted to other Middle Eastern conflicts, do you think that Iraq is still, or will soon be, of great concern to the U.S. again? If insurgents once again gain control of the Iraqi government, do you believe that it is the duty of the US to send its troops back into the country?
I think that Hashmi’s verdict was a mix of semi-justified and a move to gain control. While charges of Hashmi overseeing death squads were not solidified, Hashmi was convicted of killing two people. It seems that Hashmi was charged with all that could be proven, and his perhaps extreme verdict was taken and turned into a move to gain control. Instead of imprisoning Hashmi – or another, lesser means of punishment being implemented – his death is what is being called for, which sends a strong message to Sunni’s (Hashmi’s party) from Shiites. The fact that Iraqi’s are calling for such violent measures while Iraq is also in the midst of a violent uproar means that America’s focus does need to turn back to Iraq. While I don’t know if sending troops back to Iraq is what is necessary, someone needs to step in to help Iraq diffuse this deadly situation for many people. Hashmi’s verdict is only one example of the high tensions in Iraq at the moment, and if someone (United States or another country) does not step in soon to aid Iraq, more violence and death is what is to come for Iraqi’s.