Iraqi vice president: Maliki is becoming a new Saddam

Foreign Policy reports: Shortly before a wave of 15 bombings ripped through Baghdad on Thursday morning, killing more than 60 people, Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi warned that a simultaneous political crisis in the country could spiral “beyond control.” In an interview with Foreign Policy on Wednesday from Sulaymaniyah in Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region where the vice president has fled to evade an arrest warrant, Hashemi declared that the Iraqi political system is “drifting from building democracy to building an autocratic regime” — and implied that Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, was becoming a new Saddam Hussein.

Earlier this week, Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, accused Hashemi, a Sunni, of running a hit squad targeting government officials during the height of sectarian strife in the country. In a press conference on Wednesday, Maliki went further, casting doubt on the sustainability of power-sharing in Iraq by threatening to replace the current unity government with a majority government if Hashemi’s largely Sunni Iraqiya bloc doesn’t end a boycott of parliament and the cabinet. The political crisis has sparked concern about sectarian violence returning to Iraq just days after the last U.S. troops withdrew from the country.

Hashemi has vehemently denied the charges against him, arguing that they are politically motivated and yet another effort by Maliki to consolidate power. When asked if Maliki has become a Saddam-like figure since assuming power in 2006, as fellow Iraqiya leaders Saleh al-Mutlak and Iyad Allawi have suggested, Hashemi noted that "many of Saddam’s behaviors are now being exercised by Maliki unfortunately." But he added that Saddam rebuilt Iraq in six months after the invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf War in the early 1990s. In contrast, under Maliki’s leadership, Hashemi pointed out, the consulting firm Mercer ranked Baghdad the worst city in the world in terms of quality of life.

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