Spencer Ackerman worries about Maliki issuing an arrest warrant for his Sunni vice president, Tarek al-Hashemi, on terrorism charges:
The U.S. has its largest overseas diplomatic presence in Iraq. If it is to do anything useful at all, it has to convince Prime Minister Nouri Maliki not to arrest his vice president. I have no idea if Hashemi is guilty. But if Hashemi gets thrown in jail, it tells Iraq’s Sunni minority that they live in a predator state. It will not take much from there to convince the Sunnis that violence is an appropriate political choice. And that is precisely the kind of downward spiral that the embassy is supposed to prevent or mitigate.
The important question is not whether Maliki’s government survives but whether the current quarrels are managed peacefully and in accordance with the constitution. I know all the principals in the most recent quarrels: Maliki, Hashemi and Mutlaq. They are tough and wily, but are they murderers or dictators? I’ve learned from experience to reserve judgment until there is clear evidence one way or the other. It is too early to reach any definitive conclusions.
Is Iraq coming apart? We should not mistake the fall of a government for the dissolution of a state. It is not even clear yet that Maliki will fall. Too early to tell what is really going on.
Reidar Vissar gives some background on the recent surge in tensions.
(Photo: Light from the rising sun hits the side of a turret gun on a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division traveling towards the Kuwaiti border as part of the last U.S. military convoy to leave Iraq December 18, 2011 near Nasiriyah, Iraq. All U.S. troops were scheduled to have departed Iraq by December 31st, 2011. At least 4,485 U.S. military personnel died in service in Iraq. According to the Iraq Body Count, more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died from war-related violence. By Lucas Jackson – Pool/Getty Images)