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Iraq Confronts Syria over Terrorism as U.S. Dithers

The Obama administration could learn a lesson in fortitude from the Maliki government.

by
Ryan Mauro

Bio

November 23, 2009 - 12:00 am
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Iraq has had enough. Faced with ongoing attacks from forces supported by Syria, the Iraqis are taking an increasingly hard line and are refusing to back down. They are fully aware that a confrontation brings the risk of further instability, but the Iraqis recognize that the only way to ultimately stop the violence is to stop those enabling it. Already, their new stance towards Syria is bringing results, while the U.S. keeps rewarding Syria through inaction — a silent way of confirming to the Syrians that we understand that our security is dependent upon them.

This assessment of the impression given to Syria is not speculation, but is a summary of a thinly veiled, successful Syrian strategy. Take a look at the following words of Ahmed Salkini, a political advisor to the ambassador to the United States, regarding the current state of relations: “A previous administration did not want to cooperate, even if it cost American lives. This administration is realizing you have to cooperate in order to save lives, in order to advance U.S. interests, and that’s what we’re looking forward into the future.”

In other words: you need us and if we’re not happy, you’ll suffer. Supporters of the Assad regime will claim that Salkini was stating a simple fact that international cooperation increases security, but Syria has been directly supporting the insurgents in order to achieve the U.S. policy shift they seek. This is blackmail, pure and simple. The Obama administration apparently recognizes this and has reversed its previous plans by deciding not to send an ambassador to Syria.

The Iraqis are to be admired for refusing to be bullied. State sponsors of terrorism engage in such activity because they believe their involvement can’t be proven and that the victim won’t punish them out of a fear of escalating the conflict and not having the smoking-gun proof to back up their assertions. The Iraqis have wisely responded by making their complaints public, rather than confining them to behind-the-scenes talks. They continue to demand that the United Nations establish a tribunal to prosecute those in Syria involved in the violence. Al-Maliki even hinted at supporting Assad’s own dissident elements in retaliation, saying, “Neighboring countries should behave like good neighbors because it is not hard for us to do the same things they did.”

The former Iraqi national security advisor is saying that they have evidence that Syrian intelligence officers are providing logistical support to al-Qaeda in Iraq, and following the October 25 bombings of the Justice Ministry and Baghdad government buildings killing 160 people, the foreign minister said they had “strong and tangible evidence” that those behind the bombings had safe harbor in Syria. It is unknown if the Assad regime had a direct hand in the attacks, but it is obvious that they at least did not stop acting as a safe harbor with the full knowledge of what it would result in.

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