Friday, September 13, 2013

Syria - Voice from Iraq

العراق يرحب بمبادرة روسية لنزع الأسلحة الكيمياوية السورية لتجنب ضربها

Iraq welcomes the Russian initiative to [take over] Syria's chemical weapons [in order to safeguard them] from being hitten.

رحبت الحكومة العراقية الأربعاء بمبادرة روسية تضمن نزع الأسلحة الكيمياوية من سوريا و وضعها تحت إشراف جها دولية لتجنب الضربة العسكرية الأمريكية

On Wednesday [i.e. September 11], the government of Iraq welcomed the Russian initiative to ensure the disarmament of Syria [as far as it concerns its] chemical weapons and to put [these weapons] under [international] control to avoid a military strike [from] America.

[Source: Shafaaq News شفق نيوز on September 11, 2013. Shafaaq News belongs to a Kurdish news group in Iraq that is associated with Shafaaq Foundation.]

Further news coming from the same source are here:

A number of elements of the Free Syrian Army were arrested on Thursday while trying to enter Iraqi territory, according to a police source in Anbar police. [Shafaaq News on September 12, 2013]

Some days earlier on September 8, Shafaaq News quoted an interview with Iraq's minister of foreign affairs Hoshyar Zebari (photo above).

The Iraqi minister of foreign affairs Hoshyar Zebari denied that any Arab country or even the Arab League have supported the US strike on Syria during the Arab Ministerial meeting which was held in the head quarters of the League a few days ago in Cairo.

Here an excerpt from the interview Zebari granted to the paper Asharq Al-Awsat / The Middle East:

*It seems to many that the US is seriously preparing for a military strike designed to cripple the Assad regime’s military capabilities. Do you agree?

-True, American preparations are serious, and the strike seems certain. In my estimation the American administration will not stay silent.

*Do you think it possible that the US will not do anything, even after moving warships into the Mediterranean?

Of course no. This is a very difficult matter. As I mentioned, an American military strike is a near certainty. This issue is connected to politics, domestic concerns, the position of President Obama, the American leadership, and their pride. The American administration has reached a point where it cannot back down and the consequences of the strike will be extremely dangerous for the entire region.

*What are the possible repercussions of a strike on Syria in Iraq?

-Iraq will be directly affected by the continuation of the Syrian crisis and its extension into Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has become a single front containing terrorist organizations including Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra Front, and others. Their only goal is to cause as much destruction as possible.

From a humanitarian perspective, there is also the issue of the influx of Syrian refugees. For instance, over a short period of time Iraq has taken in nearly 43,000 Syrian refugees. Naturally there are concerns, especially since we do not know what the grand strategy is to ensure stability in Syria. No one in the Arab foreign ministers’ meeting had any better alternative for dealing with the crisis except enacting the Geneva II conference and securing peace through the participation of both parties.

*Hasn’t the Syrian regime refused to participate in Geneva II?

-They did not really refuse it. The Syrian regime expressed their consent during a visit to Iraq by Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallem.

* But Muallem came out later to announce that Syria’s participation was contingent about certain conditions, including Assad remaining in power until the end of his term in office in 2014.

-No. The Syrian regime agreed without preconditions. The two parties must participate in the conference without preconditions in order to ensure credibility.

*How do you interpret the Russian and American positions? The former thinks it has proof that the opposition used chemical weapons and America says that it has proof that the regime used them.

-These positions are the result of politicizing intelligence information.

*What do you mean by “politicizing intelligence information?”

-Every country is using the information it has to support its own position. Many international parties have had reservations and even questioned the credibility of this information. This debate is ongoing and the UN inspectors will present their report to the UN Secretary General. However the team will not name which side used chemical weapons, only whether or not chemical weapons were used. This means that we will continue to hear debates around who was responsible for the attack. Therefore, it is up the different nations’ intelligence services to assess who used chemical weapons. It is for this reason that I believe that a military strike is coming.

*After the military strike, will it be possible for both sides to go to the Geneva II conference and reach a political solution?

-Every party should be pressured to arrive at a political solution, but will that actually happen? We don’t know. Will there be greater repercussions or other parties that will widen the scope of the conflict beyond Syria? That is certainly a possibility.

*Do you think it is possible that the Syria conflict will spillover into Lebanon, for instance?

-With the confrontation with Israel, Hezbollah entering the fray, and terrorist activities here and there, there is serious anxiety over this issue. We, as neighbors of Syria, certainly need to take precautions and work hard with others to settle the differences that could disrupt a political settlement.

*Do you mean that if a strike occurred in Syria, however limited, it must come with a guarantee to preserve the state of Syrian through Geneva II?

-Of course our goal is protecting the Syrian people and their nation.

*What about the current security situation in Iraq?

-The security situation is not stable because of continued terrorist attacks. A big part of that can be traced to the performance of security and governmental agencies in addressing the issue. It is also partially a reflection of the Syrian crisis. We have an interest in ending this crisis and finding a secure and safe way out of it, particularly as we are among the nations that are most affected by what happens in Syria. Regarding the current political situation, all matters are on hold and political issues have not been settled. We are awaiting next year’s general elections.

*What can you tell us about the preparations for the UN meetings with the Arab Group in New York this month?

-As for Iraq, we will go to New York. We have gotten rid of all of the UN restrictions and sanctions that have shackled Iraq, particularly Chapter VII. Having returned to the Arab, Islamic, and international stage, we will go this time free from all the sanctions that we once faced. In my opinion, the most important issue on the table is definitely the Syrian crisis, also the Iranian nuclear issue and the participation of the new Iranian president who will be a star of the meeting in New York.

*Has Iranian policy changed following Hassan Rouhani’s election?

-There are strong indicators that there is an inclination towards change and dealing with the realities of the situation with little concern for ideology.

*Will the Iranian grip on Iraq loosen as well?

-They do not have a grip on us, but there are relations and communication. Next week, the Iranian foreign minister will undertake his first visit to Baghdad.

*What will be discussed during the Iranian foreign minister’s visit to Baghdad?

-A number of issues will be discussed: bilateral relations, the Syrian crisis, and the nuclear issue.

*In the case of an American military strike on Syria, do you expect Iran to become a party in the equation?

-In my opinion, all nations will remain neutral.


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