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Iraq is Spiralling Once More Towards Civil War

19/09/2012 09:33 | Updated 17 November 2012

The death sentence passed two weeks ago by the Iraqi courts on the exiled Vice President of Iraq, Dr. 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 Al-Hashemi was in the firing line, a clear target for the deeply sectarian and ardently pro-Shia al Maliki and his Iranian overlords.

The trumped-up charges against Dr. Al-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 Shia community. Dr. Al-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 recognise the corpse, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

Far from being a terrorist, Dr. Al-Hashemi has always been committed to the pacification and democratisation 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 Dr. Al-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 Dr. Al-Hashemi who met and had a constructive dialogue with Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, one of the most revered of Iraq's religious leaders, in order to promote peace between Sunni and Shia factions.

The death sentence on Dr Al-Hashemi, who has now 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 civilised behaviour 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 in September, twenty one 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 is seems confessions have, in many cases, been forced under torture, as in the al-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 or not 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. Nouri Al Maliki was re-appointed as Prime Minister following the 2010 elections, despite the fact that he had actually lost the election by 2 seats to the more secular Ayad Allawi. But the mullahs in neighbouring Iran would not tolerate Allawi as Iraq's PM and cajoled their cohorts like Muqtada Al Sadr and Amar al-Hakim, to join forces with al Maliki to form a coalition. As a result, the anticipated government of national unity has never been realised and the pledges made to bind together the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds never implemented. Three key ministries - Security, Defence & Interior - remain unfilled, with all of their powers assumed by the office of Prime Minister al 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 armoured cars sit at every corner. Machineguns poke out from behind heaps of sandbags. Concrete bunkers and watch-towers abound. Politicians move around the city in heavily armoured and hugely expensive 4WD cars with darkened windows. There is only 4 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 US and UK 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 al-Maliki's re-anointment as PM 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 UN mission to that country is part-funded by the EU 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.