Iraq-Syria row intensifies

The Iraq-Syria row over Syria’s sponsorship of insurgent groups and al Qaeda operating in Iraq has gotten interesting over the past few days. Omar over at Iraq The Model has been closely following the story and has some interesting updates. First, a small group of Iraqis held a protest in Hillah and cleverly used Syrian President Bashir al Assad’s own words as part of their protest:

More than 300 Iraqis protested on Monday to demand that Syria stop its alleged support for “terrorists and assassins” determined to carry out attacks in Iraq.

The demonstrators gathered in Hilla, 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Baghdad, and held up banners, declaring: “Immorality, Bashar, means killing innocent people in cold blood” — a jibe at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Assad has dismissed as “immoral” and politically motivated allegations by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that Syria is harbouring terrorists.

“The Baathists and Takfiris (Sunni extremists) come from your country, Bashar,” said another banner at the protest in Hilla, capital of Babil province, referring to the outlawed Baath party of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

A Turkish newspaper is claiming that the US has provided Iraq with satellite imagery that shows Ba’athist training camps for Iraqi insurgents, while Lebanese intelligence officials claimed Syrian intelligence aided wanted Ba’athists who were behind the deadly Aug. 19 bombings in Baghdad to enter Lebanon. Interestingly enough, the crisis has made Ba’athists sheltering in Syria nervous:

In related news, al-Sharq al-Awsat reports that Iraqi Ba’ath Party members residing in Syria are anxiously following developments in the crisis between Baghdad and Damascus and are preparing for the worst. Abu Al-Walid, a Ba’ath Party member told al-Sharq al-Awsat from Syria that he and his colleagues are “following the news and preparing to relocate to another country in case the Iraqi government decided to prosecute them or, in case the Syrian government had to hand over all Ba’ath members; wanted or not”.

Just when the pressure seems to be having some effect, Iraq’s Presidency Council has decided to rein in Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s harsh rhetoric on Syria.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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