Syria: Is Iraq the first country to defect?
The latest statement issued by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari from Cairo about the Assad regime, in which he described it as a totalitarian regime, means that Iraq has practically become the first country to defect from supporting Assad, even if this was just in the media.
This means that only Iran and the Lebanese government remain for Assad, although here one might say: What about Russia?
The reality is that Moscow’s position today is akin to one who has a foot in both camps. For in light of Russia’s agreement to the recent Geneva statement, this suggests that the strength of Moscow’s position lies in incapacitating the UN Security Council, rather than resolving the situation, namely possessing the capability of forcing Assad to leave Damascus.
Therefore, Moscow is like one who harms but does not help, and that has been Russia’s policy in our region, whether in Nasser’s Egypt, Saddam’s Iraq or today with the tyrant of Damascus. After Russia’s position in Geneva, it cannot be said that Moscow is standing with Assad or against him, and this is truly a confusing state of affairs.
Hence, it is the statement issued by the Iraqi Foreign Minister on Syria that is striking today and his likening of the Damascus regime with the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, while Zebari also stated that Iraq stands with the Syrian people.
The importance of Zebari’s statement is that it was issued by the current Iraqi foreign minister, a member of an Iraqi government that is under the thumb of Iran, and that is why this statement is so striking. Has the Iraqi government become aware that the situation in Syria today is not in Assad’s interests? Is that why Baghdad launched this scathing attack against the criminal in Damascus, particularly as this statement was issued by a veteran foreign minister who is known for his tact and political civility, something that Iraq under Al-Maliki has lost?
Perhaps, in any case this represents the opposite of the Lebanese government’s position, which issued a shameful and reprehensible statement justifying Assad regime forces kidnapping Lebanese soldiers from inside Lebanese territory, in a blatantly subservient manner. This demonstrates that the Lebanese government is not the master of its own decisions, nor does it intend to be!
Therefore, we must carefully examine the position taken by the Iraqi foreign minister toward Assad, for this is no less important than the defection of 85 Syrian soldiers, led by a senior officer, yesterday evening.
Zebari’s position cannot have been taken in isolation to the position of the Iraqi government, even under the pretext that Iraq is chairing the current session of the Arab League. This position indicates that the changing situation on the ground in Syria is what prompted Iraq to be the first allied country to defect from the Assad axis, even if this was just in the media. From here, it becomes clear that the Assad regime is slowly, day by day, beginning to disintegrate, and even its closest allies can find no alternative to attacking it publicly. This means that the Assad regime is collapsing, day by day. Zebari also did not criticize Assad in this sharp manner until Al-Maliki, years ago, threatened the Syrian president with the UN Security Council, during the terrorist attacks that were striking Baghdad at the time and which Al-Maliki accused the Assad regime of being behind.
Therefore, it is clear today that Baghdad, despite the Iranian influence over it, no longer rates Assad; this carries huge implications, most importantly it means that Iraq may be the first country to defect from its alliance with Assad, who no longer scares anybody in Baghdad. Hence the tyrant of Damascus has become a paper lion in the eyes of the Iraqis.
— The author is editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.
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