ANBUL: Former dictator Saddam Hussein’s Baath party must play a role if a political solution is to be found in Iraq, fugitive vice president Tarek Al Hashemi said yesterday, warning that US air strikes would do nothing to end the violence.
The Iraqi army has been trying to push back Sunni Muslim insurgents from Islamic State and other groups opposed to the Shia-led government in Baghdad since they launched a lightning advance two months ago.
“My country is on the brink of civil war and partition,” Hashemi, a Sunni sentenced to death in 2012 after an Iraqi court convicted him of running death squads, told Reuters in an interview here.
“The United States summarises the whole dilemma into attacking (Islamic State) only. This is not going to put an end to the Iraqi issue,” he said, saying Shia militias were also guilty of acts of terrorism.
“They shouldn’t concentrate on the Sunni extremists, they should take into consideration the Shia as well. They are also terrorists, they are killing, they are displacing people and they are adopting the same (Islamic State) policy and strategy.”
Sunni groups including Baath party loyalists initially rallied behind Islamic State because of a shared hatred for the Shia-led government, but there have been growing signs of infighting and disagreement over the Al Qaeda offshoot’s rejection of Iraq’s borders and severe interpretation of Islam.
Hashemi said “de-Baathification” after the US-led invasion in 2003 which toppled Saddam had caused Iraq to lose well-trained professionals it now badly needed, and said it was vital they were brought into the political process.
“They’re effective politically and even have armed groups on the ground, they are very active,” he said of the banned former ruling party. “There is only one way to accommodate them, to invite them to sit at the roundtable and be a partner in the (revival) of the political process ... in laying down an agreeable vision for the future. They have to be a partner,” he said.
Hashemi has long accused former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki of a witch-hunt against Sunni opponents. Maliki, a Shia, stepped down last week after criticism that his sectarian policies had encouraged some members of the Sunni minority to join the Islamic State insurgency.
Haider Al Abadi, a fellow Shia, has been appointed prime minister-designate to try to form a government including leaders of Iraq’s main minorities. Hashemi welcomed Abadi’s appointment as a “step in the right direction” but said it was not enough, calling on him to immediately halt military operations such as air strikes on Falluja, west of Baghdad, which he said were killing innocent Sunni civilians.