Just a few days after the U.S. military oficially departed Iraq last December, PM Nouri al Maliki accused top Sunni official, VP Tariq al Hashimi of leading death squads and killing Iraqi officials and civilians during the sectarian strife. In a press conference Maliki said that he had a criminal file on Hashimi that he had been sitting on for three years, and was now ready to prosecute him. For the objective observer, the timing of this announcement was telling.
Most Iraqis believe that much of the violence was - and still is political. And that many politicians and officials on the highest levels are involved to some degree - Whether Sunni or Shiite.
Confessions of Hashimi's security personnel were aired on state television and an arrest warrent for Hashimi himself was issued and also made public on state TV - All this publicity on Malikis side in order to burn the bridges and make any political deal impossible in this country whose government is glued together with political deals.
Hashimi fled to the northern region of Kurdistan and said that the confessions were extracted under torture. He said he was willing to attend a trial if it would be held in Kurdistan, or at least in Kirkuk, where he said the courts were not as strongly influenced by Maliki.
He was given asylum by Masoud Barzani, head of the region who was convinced that Hashimi was being pursued for political reasons, regardless of criminal cherges. Barzani commented on Hashimi's predicament and Maliki's government saying, "The guilty are hailed as innocent - and the innocent are named guilty."
This gave rise to a sticky situation between the government of the Kurdish region and the Shiite led government in Baghdad.
Change of venue was turned down by the judiciary in Baghdad, and a date and place for Hashimi's trial was announced: May 4th, in Baghdad. And if he does not show up - he will be tried in absentia.
In March, the Hashimi guard who confessed to criminal acts under orders of Hashimi, died in prison and photos of his (dead) body with marks of horrendous torture were posted over the internet. Hashimi's party announced that they were going to file charges of torture and murder.
So many in Iraq were looking forward to the summit in hope that it would bring some relief to the strained Iraqi internal scene. The summit was hailed a success, but only as far as Iraq's relations with other Arab states are concerned, in that it broke the ice that had formed between Iraq and the Arab states after the occupation and the rise of a Shiite led government with close ties to Iran. But no Iraqi internal issues were officially discussed - and no relief gained for the rising tensions on the political scene.
On Sunday, April 1st, just three days after the summit was held, Hashimi left Kurdistan/Iraq "on a tour" that statrted with a visit to Qatar, one of the Gulf States that is most opposed to Maliki's Shiite led government.
In a statement, his office said that Hashimi has departed on a tour to visit several countries - and will return to Kurdistan when his tour is done.
Big smiles - snickers, outright laghter and also many sad expressions on the faces of Iraqis when asked, "Do you think Hashimi will return?"