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.”
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