Baghdad, Iraq - Less than 24 hours after the US military withdrew the last of its occupation forces from Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered an arrest warrant for Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi on terrorism charges.
Maliki, a Shia, levelled the charges against the highest ranking Sunni in the government - a move that threatens to drag the country back into sectarian bloodshed such as what occurred in 2006-2007 and led to tens of thousands of Iraqis being killed.
The move is particularly dangerous at this time, given the power vacuum created by the US withdrawal.
Just three days after US forces withdrew from Iraq, on December 21, Maliki placed Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni politician and a leader of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, on "extended leave".
In an interview with Al Jazeera on Tuesday, Mutlaq called on Maliki to step down, accusing the prime minister of governing like a dictator and leading the country into chaos.
"My advice to him [Maliki] is that he should leave his chair because he is the reason behind all that is happening in Iraq because he turned into a real dictator in this country," Mutlaq told Al Jazeera. Read More