Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.
Obama insisted on a new Iraqi unity government that would cut the necessary deals with the Sunnis. So far it’s working about as well as you expect. Shiite death squads shot up a Sunni mosque. ISIS set off car bombs deep in Baghdad and Erbil.
And the Sunni price for participation involves freeing some real monsters.
Iraq also faces hard decisions. The government has promised to release from prison a former defense minister of ousted President Saddam Hussein, a senior Sunni official said.
In an interview with the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Deputy Prime Minister Mutlaq did not say why the promises to free Sultan Hashim and other Sunni military and political leaders had been made.
Hashim’s release could appease the Sunnis who dominated Iraq until a U.S.-led invasion overthrew Saddam in 2003.
But it would mark a major concession by the government led by Shiites and probably upset the Kurdish community. Hashim was sentenced to death for a campaign under Saddam that included gassing Kurds in the town of Halabja in 1988.
Hashim was the 27th most wanted Saddamite. The Eight of Hearts. Despite Hashim’s role in the gassings, which led him to be sentenced to death, it was actually Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish president, who bailed him out because Iraqi politics is strange and murky, filled with all sorts of odd alliances.
The Iraqi government is denying that Hashim or Tariq Aziz, the former Deputy PM, have been released, but it’s not quite a denial that they will be released.
There have also been allegations that Hashim was willing to consider participating in a US coup against Saddam back during the Clinton days. Like most of Clinton’s actions against Saddam, that came to nothing.
With Saddam’s people fighting alongside ISIS, it’s unclear where Hashim or other former Saddamites would stand in the new order.