Belmont Club

Cloak and dagger

Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli of MEMRI relates the fascinating background of Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki’s twilight struggle with Syria — and Iran.  As Raphaeli put it, “the biggest challenge facing Al-Maliki is simply to survive in an environment where attempts on the lives of politicians are a daily occurrence.” I’ve excerpted some quotes from his extensive article to try and condense down a long and convoluted narrative of hostility behind the smiling faces presented by the public figures.


Reading through the cloak-and-dagger story, one cannot help but wonder what relevance the Roadmap and the Ban on Settlements have on all of these tensions. Moreover, there is the question of whether Obama’s rapproachment with Iran will strengthen or weaken the hand of Maliki’s enemies. One thing seems certain: even if Israel were, by some alchemy to vanish into the Mediterranean Sea tomorrow, the Middle East would still be a dangerous place.

  • Al-Maliki Turns His Back on Iran, Embraces Iraqi Nationalism | Global Terrorism
    • Nouri Kamal Al-Maliki, who became prime minister of Iraq in May 2006, was a compromise candidate. He was seen at the time as the weakest of the available candidates – a virtually unknown representative of the Islamic Al-Da’wa Party, at the time a junior partner in the predominantly Shi’ite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA).
    • In choosing to split with his former partners from the UIA – based on his confidence that he can do better on his own – Al-Maliki took a big gamble. It must be remembered, however, that he took this decision before the August 19, 2009 bombings in Baghdad, in which 100 Iraqis were killed and more than 600 were wounded, and the offices of two important ministries – the Foreign Affairs and Finance ministries – were damaged. The bombings have presented Al-Maliki with a crisis and a challenge that may well influence not only the fortune of any coalition he puts together, but his own political future as well.
    • In the words of Iraqi columnist Daoud Al-Basri of the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa, who is well-informed about Iraqi politics, Al-Maliki presented Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad with a mouthwatering package of deals and incentives in the fields of trade and oil. However, the package also included a list of 271 Ba’thist Iraqi leaders who reside in Syria and are allegedly involved in terrorist activities in Iraq, whom Al-Maliki wanted Syria to extradite. According to Al-Basri, upon hearing this request, Assad shot back that he would not surrender a single individual, not even for $100 million. He told Al-Maliki to take his papers and leave.
    • Less than 24 hours after the meeting between Assad and Al-Maliki, a series of massive explosions shook the Iraqi capital.
    • Immediately after the bombings, Iraq arrested one of the suspected perpetrators, who was allegedly working for Iraqi Ba’thists in Damascus. This led Iraq to demand the extradition of two Iraqi Ba’thist leaders living in Syria, Muhammad Younis Al-Ahmad and Sattam Farhan, who were suspected of planning the bombings.
    • Additionally, Iraq’s Council of Ministers called on the U.N. to establish an international tribunal to try the criminals who planned and carried out these war crimes and crimes against humanity in Iraq. The Ministers Council also recalled the Iraqi ambassador from Damascus “for consultations,” and Syria reciprocated by recalling its own ambassador from Baghdad.
    • In light of mounting conflict between the two countries and the escalation of the mutual insults, as Al-Sharq Al-Awsat called it,(14) Turkey sent its foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, to Baghdad and Damascus to mediate between the two sides.
    • If Syria is indeed behind the massive violence in Iraq, the intriguing question is why Iran permits this involvement, tacitly or otherwise. The answer may lie with the formation of the new Shi’ite coalition mentioned above, which Al-Maliki has so far refused to join.
    • In fact, Syria may have instigated the bombings as a proxy for Iran that wishes to warn Al-Maliki against going too far.
    • there are other issues that he must deal with: First of all, his government is thoroughly corrupt (as confirmed by Transparency International, which has repeatedly ranked it close to the bottom of its lists in terms of corruption).
    • Additionally, his relationship with Syria is complicated by the presence of some two million Iraqi refugees who escaped from Iraq to Syria in search of safety. Most of the leaders of the defunct Iraqi Ba’th Party are living there, supported financially by donors from the Gulf who despise the Shi’ite government in Iraq, and logistically by Syria, which often acts as a proxy for or in collusion with Iran, with the aim of destabilizing Iraq and expediting the withdrawal of the United States forces from that country.

Rumors that certain countries are in the region are still trying to re-arm were rekindled by news that the Russian ship ‘Arctic Sea’, at first believed to be hijacked by pirates was actually carrying contraband for Syria or Iran, with some sources suggesting the ship may have carried S-300 missiles. The S-300 is a potent air defense missile and Wikipedia names Syria and Iran as potential “future” operators.

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