In a sign of Washington’s dwindling influence over Baghdad, Iraq has vowed to continue its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. By KHADIJA PATEL.
By the end of the year, all American troops are required by the Status of Forces Agreement to leave Iraq. It is increasingly clear that some US troops will remain in the country in an advisory capacity to Iraqi state security. The number will be determined by relations between the US and Iraq. The US fears the government it helped install will seek mentorship from Iran instead.
Syria is a particularly prickly issue in US-Iraqi relations. US President Barack Obama continues to call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, but the Iraqi government continues to express its faith in al-Assad to implement democratic reforms. Other gulf states like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar have called on al-Assad to step down, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has rejected calls for al-Assad to step down. “We believe that Syria will be able to overcome its crisis through reforms,” Maliki said last month. Pundits have been swift to point out Maliki’s words were an echo of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who also proposed that Syrians should “implement the necessary reforms by themselves”.
In the latest Iraqi slight against the US on Syria, The Washington Post reported on Sunday that Iraq had sent vital financial assistance to Syria. While the Iraqi government denied last month that it was under pressure from Iran to send financial assistance to Syria, the Post quotes Syria expert, Andrew Tabler saying, “Iraq is sending a lifeline to Assad”. However vociferously the Iraqi government may deny reports of financial assistance to Syria, the proliferation of such reports will further impede the US withdrawal from Iraq. A show of support of al-Assad will only seed American worries their withdrawal will only see Iran take charge. DM
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