Iraq calls for Syria’s Assad to step down

A little over one month ago, news reports were quick to charge Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki as being in Iran’s pocket for refusing to denounce Syrian President Bashir al Assad as he brutally suppressed protesters. Syria is Iran’s closest ally. Here is an example of the Maliki-loves-Iran meme, from Aug. 12, from The New York Times:

Mr. Maliki’s support for Mr. Assad has illustrated how much Iraq’s position in the Middle East has shifted toward an axis led by Iran. And it has also aggravated the fault line between Iraq’s Shiite majority, whose leaders have accepted Mr. Assad’s account that Al Qaeda is behind the uprising, and the Sunni minority, whose leaders have condemned the Syrian crackdown.

“The unrest in Syria has exacerbated the old sectarian divides in Iraq because the Shiite leaders have grown close to Assad and the Sunnis identify with the people,” said Joost Hiltermann, the International Crisis Group’s deputy program director for the Middle East.

He added: “Maliki is very reliant on Iran for his power and Iran is backing Syria all the way. The Iranians and the Syrians were all critical to bringing him to power a year ago and keeping him in power so he finds himself in a difficult position.”

Today, Maliki has called for Assad to step down. From The New York Times:

An adviser to the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri Kamal al-Maliki, said in an interview on Tuesday that the Iraqi government had sent messages to Mr. Assad that said he should resign.

“We believe that the Syrian people should have more freedom and have the right to experience democracy,” said the adviser, Ali al-Moussawi. “We are against the one-party rule and the dictatorship that hasn’t allowed for the freedom of expression.”

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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  • mike says:

    The inability of the New York Times (and the US media in general) to understand the Middle East outside of their own preconceived notions, which seemed to be shaped by their own domestic political leanings, is a disgrace and major disservice to the people of the US.

  • CC says:

    I’ve always liked Al-Maliki, despite his shortcomings. I thought he was another marshmellow-soft leader until he stood up against the Shia death squads in the south. This is very encouraging news as it shows that Iraq is resistant to being a satellite state of Iran. What is even more encouraging is that Al-Maliki is calling for DEMOCRACY. Perhaps George W. Bush was correct in his assertion that democracy would take root once the seed had been planted.
    The transition of Syria to democracy would be great for the region. It would force the Iranians to the bargaining table and let them know that they are truly isolated and the days of state-sponsored terror will be no more.

  • chris says:

    Western media is near worthless.Thank God we have people like Bill around.

  • Ryan says:

    “The transition of Syria to democracy would be great for the region.”
    Except for Israel and after witnessing the events in Egypt which became more virulently anti-Israel since the removal of Mubarak, don’t be surprised if the new democratic regime in Syria will go down the same path.


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