Syrian Conflict Casts Long Shadow Over Iraq

By Laith Hammoudi.

This article was originally published by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, iwpr.net, and it is reproduced by Iraq Business News with permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

With no resolution in sight, the conflict in Syria is causing all sorts of headaches in neighbouring Iraq, where a Shia-led government is concerned at the prospect of regime change while its Sunni Arab opponents back the rebels.

Caught between the Iran to the east and Tehran’s ally Bashar al-Assad to the west, the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is finding its loyalties severely tested.

The official stance is that Baghdad is not backing President Assad but wants any power transition to be peaceful.

Realities on the ground and in the wider region make it harder to sustain a studious neutrality. According to AP news agency, US officials suspect the Iraqis of quietly allowing Iranian arms to cross their territory to bolster Assad’s military.

For their part, Iraqi security officials have expressed concern at what they say are covert arms shipments heading both ways, to anti-government forces in both Iraq and Syria. There are fears that the porous border between the two countries could blur the lines of conflict, as shown when over 40 Syrian soldiers and nine Iraqis died in an ambush by Sunni insurgents this March. The incident took place in Iraq’s western Anbar province, close to the frontier.

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