Baghdad, Nov 26: Iraq is increasingly worried that the ongoing turmoil in neighboring Syria could upset its own fragile security and fractious political order, especially as the US military is set to withdraw its last troops from the war-torn nation.
Iraq has resisted Arab efforts to further isolate Syria and has tried to cast itself in the role of mediator between the regime and Arab states pushing against President Bashar al-Assad.
According to the Wall street Journal, Iraq fears the fall of Assad largely because his regime began last year to collaborate with Baghdad in curbing militant Islamist groups linked to al Qaeda.
Hussein al-Assadi, a senior security adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, has pointed out that the regime’s collapse could revitalize those militants, the paper said.
Iraq is also in the middle of a high-stakes regional power play that pits neighboring Sunni-dominated states such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia against Shiite Iran, a Syrian ally that wields significant influence over the Shiite-led government in Iraq.
According to an Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, worsening crisis in Syria coupled with the US troop withdrawal from Iraq will only sharpen the regional struggle.
“Nobody knows what the day after will be like, what kind of a regime would be there, how long this will take,” Zebari said referring to Syria.
Zebari signaled that Iraq wouldn’t abide by any prospective Arab League sanctions on Syria, which would be nonbinding.
General Lloyd Austin, commander of US forces in Iraq, warned that al Qaeda-linked militants could seek to increase their freedom of movement in Iraq after American troops leave.
Austin urged the Iraqi government to maintain pressure on all extremist groups including those allegedly backed by Iran.
He said Iraq’s concerns about events in Syria were understandable, but added that it was ‘very difficult to speculate on outcomes.’ (ANI)