Outside View: Iraq spiraling toward civil war

By STRUAN STEVENSON, UPI Outside View Commentator  |  Sept. 20, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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BRUSSELS, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The death sentence passed two weeks ago by Iraqi courts on Vice President of Iraq Tariq al-Hashemi is another milestone on that country's pathway to disaster and civil war.

It is clear that the sentence was politically motivated. The Iraqi judges take their orders from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He, in turn, takes his orders from the fascist mullahs in Tehran.

As the only prominent Sunni in the Iraqi government, the secularist Hashemi was in the firing line, a clear target for the deeply sectarian and ardently pro-Shiite Maliki and his Iranian overlords.

The trumped-up charges against Hashemi alleged that he was leading a death squad, made up of his own bodyguards, who were purportedly engaged in a terror campaign against Iraq's Shiite community. Hashemi's bodyguards were imprisoned by Iraqi security agents and forced to make false confessions under severe torture.

At least one of them, Amir Sarbut Zaidan al-Batawi, died during this gruesome process. His body was so mutilated that his family could barely recognize the corpse, a Human Rights Watch report stated.

Far from being a terrorist, Hashemi has always been committed to the pacification and democratization of Iraq. His vision for his country is of a state truly respectful of human rights, where sectarian hatred is abolished and cooperation among different factions becomes the norm.

Indeed it was Hashemi who drafted the "Iraqi National Compact," a 25-point statement of principles that condemns all forms of extremism and sectarian discrimination, in 2007, during the most difficult years of the Iraqi insurgency. It was also Hashemi who met and had a constructive dialogue with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, one of the most revered of Iraq's religious leaders, in order to promote peace between Sunni and Shiite factions.

The death sentence on Hashemi, who has fled to Turkey, immediately provoked a surge of bombings and killings across Iraq, which claimed the lives of 75 people and maimed and injured hundreds.

The Iraqi government has chosen a path which is beyond the boundaries of civilized behavior and they have fanned the flames of a new insurgency in the process. And yet the civilized world seems to have been struck dumb. Repeated violations of human rights, arbitrary arrests, secret prisons, torture and a spate of executions in Iraq has failed to raise so much as a murmur from the West.

During the first week of September, 21 people, including three women, were executed in a single day in Iraq. Two days later another five were hanged. There have been 96 executions so far this year. Another 196 people are under sentence of death awaiting execution.

The Iraqis say that most if not all have been convicted of terrorist charges but it seems confessions have, in many cases, been forced under torture, as in the Hashemi case.

There are frequent reports about the unfairness of trials, which fail to meet international standards. There is scant information made available about the names of the convicted, what crimes they have been charged with and whether they have been given access to legal representation.

But for most ordinary Iraqis, the sight of broken, tortured prisoners hauled before news cameras and paraded on the official Al Iraqiya TV channel, is becoming something of a daily spectacle.

When the Americans finally pulled out of Iraq at the end of last year, they left behind a dysfunctional government and a shattered economy. Maliki was re-appointed as prime minister following the 2010 elections, despite the fact that he had actually lost the election by two seats to the more secular Ayad Allawi.

But the mullahs in neighboring Iran would not tolerate Allawi as Iraq's prime minister and cajoled their cohorts like Muqtada Sadr and Amar al-Hakim, to join forces with Maliki to form a coalition. As a result, the anticipated government of national unity has never been realized and the pledges made to bind together the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds never implemented.

Three key ministries -- Security, Defense and Interior -- remain unfilled, with all of their powers assumed by the office of Prime Minister Maliki, who now wields immense authority.

The resulting serial corruption and endemic abuse of human rights has become a fact of life in Iraq. The country is a basket case. Baghdad is still a war zone. The streets are entombed in heavy concrete. Tanks or armored cars sit at every corner. Machine guns poke out from behind heaps of sandbags. Concrete bunkers and watchtowers abound. Politicians move around the city in heavily armored and hugely expensive four-wheel drive cars with darkened windows.

There are only four hours of electricity a day and few people have access to working sewerage systems and fresh running water, despite the fact that the country is earning billions in oil revenues!

But the United States and United Kingdom are still smarting from their collective guilt at having taken part in what amounted to an illegal war and occupation of Iraq. The resulting insurgency and carnage costs the lives of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians.

But the Americans were determined to show that they had left behind a functioning democracy; after the huge price they had paid in lives and dollars, nothing else would do. They therefore welcomed Maliki's re-anointment as prime minister and have turned a blind-eye ever since to every abuse that he has perpetrated.

The West should hang its head in collective shame. We are still pumping billions into Iraq. Every U.N. mission to that country is part-funded by the European Union and yet we stand idly by while repression, torture and executions continue apace inside Iraq.

Maliki must be brought to heel. Economic aid for Iraq should be firmly tied to good governance and sanctions should be deployed if such flagrant human rights abuse and corruption continues.


(Struan Stevenson is a Conservative Euro Member of Parliament from Scotland. He is president of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq.)


(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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