Iraq Confronts Syria over Terrorism as U.S. Dithers

The Iraqis previously accused Syria of having responsibility for the twin bombings in Baghdad on August 19, which really escalated the crisis between the two countries and resulted in the recalling of ambassadors. The Iraqis say they have wiretaps, confessions from captured terrorists, and photos of terrorist training camps in Syria to prove the Assad regime’s role in facilitating the attacks. They also have documents outlining the routes used by the terrorists to reach Iraq from Syria. On August 30, the Iraqis released the videotaped confession of a captured al-Qaeda terrorist believed to have led operations in Diyala Province, saying that he was trained at an al-Qaeda camp in Syria that “was well known to Syrian intelligence.”

The U.S. has disgracefully reacted to the crisis with neutrality. On August 26, a spokesperson for the State Department was asked about the tension between Iraq and Syria. He responded with: “We consider that an internal matter. We believe that, as a general principle, diplomatic dialogue is the best means to address the concerns of both parties.”

An Iraqi official has said that his country is experiencing major resistance from the U.S. in its push for an international tribunal to be created to target those in Syria involved in the insurgency. By failing to act against Syria or even provide political support for this move, the U.S. is helping the Assad regime and failing to understand that by waging war on Iraq they are waging war on the U.S. and its interests.

Al-Maliki now has to make a move. Some Iraqi politicians are accusing him of pointing the finger at Syria in order to distract from his own failure to establish security ahead of the elections. His government’s statements are failing to capture the attention of the world or convince the U.S. to modify its “engagement” policy to account for these transgressions.

After the threat to push for a tribunal, terrorist activity in Iraq dropped by three-fourths according to one Foreign Ministry diplomat. The October bombings obviously alter that statistic, but it is clear that al-Maliki made the right move in trying to remove the incentive for Syria to engage in covert support of terrorism by exposing it. More evidence should be released in a dramatic fashion, similar to Colin Powell’s 2003 presentation, albeit with more solid information. This will force America’s hand -- and the Obama administration can’t accuse the Iraqis of disloyalty if they do so, considering their reaction to the Iraq-Syria crisis. It will also prove the credibility of the accusations and make the Assad regime think twice about putting its fingerprints on such violence.

The U.S. has complained about Syria’s sponsorship of terrorism for years and years, but for whatever reason has failed to make public the evidence to demonstrate how serious and deadly it is. The Iraqis have shown the way forward, not only in handling Syria, but in helping to deter state sponsorship of terrorism as a whole.