The Maliki government in Iraq has been on poor terms with neighboring Turkey for awhile now, chiefly surrounding Turkey’s independent relationship with Iraq’s Kurdistan region and continued purchases of oil from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Today things are getting even worse, as the Turkish government has announced it will not force Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi to return to Baghdad, saying he is welcome to stay “as long as he wants.”
The worsening relationship has led to speculation that Iraq may oust Turkey’s Consul General from the city of Kirkuk, and Turkish officials say they are discussing possible retaliation for the move.
Hashemi was sentenced to death in absentia over the weekend, the culmination of nearly a year of political wrangling that began when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered Hashemi arrested as a “terrorist.” Hashemi is a member of the opposition Iraqiya party and the highest ranking Sunni in the Shi’ite dominated government.
Hashemi has denied accusations that he ran a secret assassination ring out of the vice president’s office, and says that the charges against him are politically motivated. While he has not been technically removed from office, his absence leaves Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq as the top Sunni in the government. Prime Minister Maliki ousted Mutlaq shortly after ordering Hashemi’s arrest, claiming Mutlaq’s criticism was tantamount to treason, but was eventually forced to reinstate him.
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