The world was surprised by the news that a chemical massacre took place on the outskirts of Damascus on Aug. 21. The Iraqi public, however, followed that event with even more interest because of a similar massacre committed by former President Saddam Hussein 25 years ago in Halabja, in northeastern Iraq. So, video clips, newspaper columns, photographs and Facebook postings about the massacre quickly spread in Iraq.
Those who followed the details of that event were overcome by grief and sorrow as they spread images and video clips of the children killed in the Syrian massacre and compared them with the children killed in Halabja — where 5,000 were killed and 10,000 injured.
Many recalled the world’s silence on the Halabja massacre — back then, the media did not cover it and international organizations paid no attention to it — warning that conflicting interests among the great powers may prevent any action on the Syrian massacre.
Those who followed the details of the Syrian massacre to identify the perpetrator split into two camps: those who accused the government and those who accused the rebels. That split revealed the widespread sectarian conflict in the region and Iraq in particular. Some Sunni observers considered the event another example of the crimes being committed by the Alawite regime and its Lebanese and Iranian allies. Some Shiites reacted by denying that the Syrian government committed the massacre and provided evidence implicating the rebels instead, especially the Salafist forces.
Others tried to link the 1988 and 2013 Syrian and Iraqi chemical attacks to the Baath party, which both Saddam and the current Syrian leadership belong to. Thus, they refused to clear the Syrian regime of the crime since that regime works on the same principles and doctrine of the Iraqi Baath party. They also asked the Iraqis to refrain from treating the Baathist regimes in Iraq and Syria according to different standards.