Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Blair backs hanging inquiry

After John Prescott yesterday described the manner of Saddam Hussein's hanging as "deplorable", Tony Blair has today backed an inquiry into what "went wrong". A Downing Street spokesperson refused to endorse Prescott's description saying that it was deputy prime minister's own view.

The news follows the publication of an interview with the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, in the Wall Street Journal where he expresses his wish to leave the job as soon as possible. The sectarian divisions in Iraq are undoubtedly troubling for
al-Maliki and it may be that the sectarian lynching- for that is what it must be called- of Hussein may have proven too much for him. Downing Street's refusal to condemn the lynch mob style of the execution points to a reluctance to further pressurise al-Maliki, but it is wrong-headed.

What hope does this give the world that Iraq is being now being governed by politicians and not militiamen? The prosecution of power in Iraq is already complicated by the balance of tribal factions within the government. Al-Maliki is a prominent member of the Shia movement (itself bedevilled by factionalism) which opposed Hussein and led the resistance. As the signatory of Hussein's death warrant he will be fearful of Sunni reprisals by those who may blame him for what they see as the humiliating way in which the execution played out. Nuri al-Maliki's interview contains the words of a desperate and bereft man.

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