Mass Arrests in Iraq: Maliki Moves Against Finance Minister’s Staff

Top Sunni Official Left Sees Arrests as Prelude to Election Season

by Jason Ditz, December 20, 2012

The top ranking Sunni Arab official in Iraq’s government is technically Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. This is a formality, however, as the government has already sentenced Hashemi to death and simply hasn’t gotten around to removing him from office. That leaves Finance Minister Rafie Issawi as the top official who hasn’t been sentenced to death in absentia.

Which has put a pretty big target on his back as the provincial election season nears, and not just a figurative one, as Issawi reports that security forces attacked his office and his home last night, capturing over 150 of his staff.

Maliki denied any direct involvement in the raids, insisting the decision was the result of a secret ruling by the Iraqi judiciary. No one is putting much stock in that however, as Maliki has made little secret of his efforts to centralize power in his hands.

Issawi is currently in hiding in the home of parliamentary speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, one of the top figures in the Sadrist faction. Nujaifi’s bloc, headed by top Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, likely has too much support for Maliki to target them directly.

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