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Iraq and its role in Syria

September 26th, 2012
07:10 PM ET

By Samuel Burke

This week countless leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York are joining in condemnation of Bashar al-Assad's brutal regime.

Yet Assad hangs on to power, thanks to strong support from a handful of nations – among them, Russia, China and Iran.

But Syria is also getting a helping hand from an unlikely source, Iraq.

The U.S. has angrily accused the Iraqis of allowing Syria’s friend, Iran, to fly over their territory with planes full of weapons for Assad's forces.

It's a bitter irony for America, which badly wants Assad out, even as it considers itself Iraq’s patron and best friend. 

UK's Hague: 'Still no Plan B on Syria'

Last week U.S. Senator John Kerry said, “It just seems completely inappropriate that we're trying to help build their democracy, support them, put American lives on the line, money into the country and they're working against our interest so overtly - against their interests too, I might add.”

Kerry even threatened to cut off the flow of American aid money into Iraq.

Nine months after the last American troops left, today's Iraq does not look much like the shining example of democracy in the Middle East that George W. Bush once envisioned.

Hundreds of people have been killed in bombing attacks this month, violence that is blamed on the festering sectarian divide.

Rebels attack military HQ in Damascus

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari tells CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that aiding and abetting the Assad regime is not taking place with the support and consent of the Iraqi government.

Zebari says the Iraqis have refrained from taking part in this conflict and sent “clear messages” to the Iranian government not to use Iraqi land or airspace to transport any type of cargo to Syria.

But U.S. officials say they have repeatedly showed the Iraqi government their intelligence – evidence of what Iran is shipping to Syria via Iraq.

A senior commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard cohort has admitted they are helping Syria. That would mean the materials would most likely be going through Iraq.

Zebari says the Iraqi government is willing to start checking Iranian aircraft randomly, having them land in Baghdad.

“Relations between Iran and Syria are very extensive, certainly on air flights, and Iran may now be the lifeline of the Assad regime,” Zebari admits.

Zebari says Iraq has received a number of U.S. delegations in Baghdad recently that have all raised the issue. But he insists the Iraqi government hasn't been given any hard evidence so far.

“We are on the side of the Syrian people and with their legitimate aspiration for freedom, democracy and dignity,” Zebari says, “As we have done, in the past under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship and repression. So morally we are definitely on the side of the Syrian people.”

Yet Zebari affirms the Iraqi government's official stance is neutrality.

“We don't want to provide arms to either side. We don't want to provide the financial assistance to either side. We want this issue to be resolved through a manageable, organized political process. What we fear is after the regime falls.”

Zebari says Iraq is doing its best, in fact, to defeat these terrorist networks and says the United States still has a great deal of sway in Iraq.

“Thanks to the Iraqi people's sacrifices and to the United States’… we are liberated from Saddam's dictatorship,” Zebari says.

“We are better off than in many other Arab countries that have gone through the Arab revolution.”

Yet there is still no political reconciliation between the Shiites and the Sunnis, which laid the groundwork for the civil war in the first place.

Many are concerned that it could erupt again, and look toward the 2010 power-sharing agreement which the government has not implemented.

Zebari says the government is trying.

“Now the Sunnis are participants in the government. The Sunnis are represented in the parliament. Those days when the Sunnis were marginalized or boycotted from the political process are no longer there. They are part of this new all-national unity government.”

“There are political differences. But there are ways to resolve them,” Zebari says.

There are also concerns that Prime Minister al-Maliki's government is becoming too powerful. He is acting defense minister, intelligence minister and national security minister.

But Zebari believes the checks and balances of the new democratic institutions would prevent anyone, including al-Maliki, from ruling Iraq.

“Nobody in the new Iraq can be a dictator.” Zebari says optimistically.

Scores killed in Syrian town 'massacre'


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. NYC

    NO FLY ZONE! Bring Clinton Back !

    September 26, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Reply
  2. Su

    Mr Zebari, although you are a good diplomat in covering up, BUT you couldn't hide it, could you! the people of the world are not fool, and your laugh at the end!! (when Christian asked you about the power of Al Maliki), said it all ! and also the expression of your face, so please don't be shy next time.

    September 27, 2012 at 6:10 am | Reply
  3. tony blair

    RAN FOR YOUR HEART
    florante & laura
    IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
    BALAGTAS BULACAN

    KAWALANG NG MUWANG NG MGA KASAMAHAN ANG UGAT O DAHILAN KUNG BAKT IBA ANG NAKIKINABANG HINDI MAIKUKUBLI NA HIGIT NA NAKARARAMI AY KAHIRAPAN ANG SULIRANIN*

    KARANIWANG BUHAY NG HIGIT SA MGA NAKARARAMI SUBALIT TAOS PUSO PARIN SA PAGBIBIGAY*
    ANG TUWIRANG PAGTATANGGOL SA TAONG MAY ISYU SA AUTHORITIES LALO NA SA BAWAT PAGKAKATAON NA MAY HINAHARAP NA SULIRANIN*

    September 27, 2012 at 9:19 am | Reply
  4. tony blair

    RAN FOR YOUR HEART
    florante & laura
    IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
    BALAGTAS BULACAN

    gamit ang sariling karapatan sa tribuna

    1* KAWALANG NG MUWANG NG MGA KASAMAHAN ANG UGAT O DAHILAN KUNG BAKT IBA ANG NAKIKINABANG HINDI MAIKUKUBLI NA HIGIT NA NAKARARAMI AY KAHIRAPAN ANG SULIRANIN*

    2*KARANIWANG BUHAY NG HIGIT SA MGA NAKARARAMI SUBALIT TAOS PUSO PARIN SA PAGBIBIGAY*

    ANG TUWIRANG PAGTATANGGOL SA TAONG MAY ISYU SA AUTHORITIES LALO NA SA BAWAT PAGKAKATAON NA MAY HINAHARAP NA SULIRANIN*

    September 27, 2012 at 9:21 am | Reply
  5. BMA

    The Iraqi government is not being truthful about this. They are indeed aware of the Iranian activity within Iraqi airspace. Why can't this guy tell it like it is, we"can't" do anything about it because the entire damn Iraqi government are Iranian's!

    America did this by leaving Iraq and giving it to a bunch of Iranian agents called the Iraqi government. These idiots will do anything to please Iran.

    This guy is talking about the new Iraq, the new Iraq is nothing but a big joke! Thank you Bush for the new Iraq. At least Saddam hated Iran, what have we now? Nothing! Such a shame.

    September 27, 2012 at 11:05 am | Reply
  6. Chukwuemeka Nwosu

    The Americans were so much in a hurry to get rid of Saddam Hussein without understanding his role in stabilizing that region

    October 1, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Reply

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