Interpol has issued a Red Notice for Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, who is currently in Istanbul. While this notice is not technically legally binding, it remains a complex issue for Turkey. The Red Notice, which was sent out to 190 member states, asks them for assistance in locating and arresting the Iraqi Sunni leader on charges of terrorism. We, in Turkey, do not have to comply, but Ankara values cooperation with Interpol, and has made a point of accepting such requests in the past. However, according to international law, there will be no sanctions if we choose to ignore these types of notices.
Just like the official request for Hashimi’s extradition that Iraq submitted a couple of months ago, Ankara will also ignore Interpol's current Notice. Turkish officials told me that the terrorism charges against Hashimi are a result of Baghdad officials trying to settle political scores. They said that Hashimi can stay in Turkey as long as he wants, and that he will decide when to return based on his own free will.
One security official told me that several Interpol Red Notices have been issued for high-level PKK officials known to be living in Iraq, but the Iraqi government has done nothing to extradite them to Turkey.
For now, Turkey’s game plan, or its hope, is the formation of a coalition of Kurds, secularists, Sunnis and moderate Shiites to topple Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the next elections. It seems that Hashimi will be our guest in Istanbul until then.
Hashimi stayed in northern Iraq for a while after he left Baghdad in December 2011. He then boarded a private plane to Qatar and Saudi Arabia before arriving in Istanbul last month. Hashimi, his family and his bodyguards live in a guest house within the Istanbul municipality, tightly guarded by Istanbul police and the Prime Minister’s security forces.
Even though the Interpol Notice will not lead to his arrest in Istanbul, he will most likely cancel the trips he was planning for Britain and other countries. From now on, he risks being arrested any time he steps outside of Turkey.
The Interpol Notice will not have any effect on Ankara’s diplomatic relations with Iraq, which have nearly ruptured anyway. However, Ankara’s vision for Iraq will be somewhat isolated. Why? Interpol, just like the IMF, is an institution where the US has a strong voice. Technically, Interpol could have issued the Notice without US support. Politically, however, this is impossible. Therefore, we can safely assume that the US was involved with the decision to issue a Red Notice.
Once again, this episode reveals the discrepancy between Ankara and Washington’s views on Iraq. From the outset, Washington did not react to the Hashimi case the way Ankara wanted, and the US has been reluctant to stand against Maliki. Last month, Hashimi told me that since he left Baghdad, not a single American official has contacted him.
With the Interpol affair, Washington has indirectly admitted that it is still supporting Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki.