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article imageIraqi security forces raid office and home of top Sunni official

By Ken Hanly     Dec 21, 2012 in Politics
Baghdad - The home and office of Rafie al-Issawi, Iraq's Finance Minister and one of Iraq's top Sunni politicians, was raided by security forces. Observers consider this one more sign that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is cracking down on opponents.
Al-Issawi, at a news conference in Baghdad, claimed that almost 150 of his staff and guards have been arrested. He said that the move was a blow by al-Maliki to weaken opposition forces before provincial elections that are scheduled to take place next spring.
Back in September, al Maliki's former vice-president Al Hashimi was sentenced to death, for supposedly running death squads as well as other charges. Al Hashimi is in exile in Turkey. Many observer's think that those charges were politically motivated. Al Hashimi was the most prominent Sunni member of the al-Maliki government.
Tension is mounting between the Shia majority and Sunni minority in Iraq. Al Qaeda is making a comeback with daily attacks that are killing many Iraqis almost every day. At the same time the central government is also coming into conflict with the Kurdish autonomous area over disputed territory. To add to all these problems, the Kurdish president Jalal Talabani has been taken to hospital with a medical emergency. This is the worst time for Al-Maliki to make another provocative move. US officials in Iraq were alarmed at the move since, quite rightly, they think that it will inflame sectarian tensions.
A State Department official said:“We have been actively engaged with Iraqi political leaders on this matter. We have urged the Iraqi government to uphold their commitments to due process and the rule of law as enshrined in their Constitution.” The president Talabani has played key roles in defusing the situation in earlier crisis but he is now not available. For his part, al-Maliki claims that he was not involved in the raid, that it was the result of investigations by the Iraqi judiciary. Many Iraqi experts question this explanation and see the move as against the Iraqiya political bloc of which al-Issawi was a member. Al-Issawi had tried to call Maliki about the situation but he had not responded.
After the raid, al-Issawi took refuge in the home of Osama al-Nujaifi. Al-Nujaifi is a top figure in the bloc headed by Moqtada al-Sadr. The Sadr bloc is part of the government and no doubt Maliki is reluctant to try to arrest Al-Issawi while in Al-Nujaifi's house. In spite of being himself a Shia, Sadr is a nationalist, who wants to unite both Sunni and Shia. However, he is also a strident critic of the United States.
More about Iraq, Sunni Shia conflict, Nouri almaliki
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