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Security vacuum in Syria will be problematic for Iraq- Al Rubaie | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Iraq’s former national security adviser, Mowafaq Al Rubaie, has stated that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ” for many years, used to allow terrorists to cross the Syrian border to Iraq, and he caused the killing of thousands of the sons of our people whether through the explosive charges, the suicide operations, or the booby-trapped cars,” citing this phrase from the holy Koran “But the plotting of Evil will hem in only the authors” [Fatir; 35: 43] in reference to what is going on in Syria at present.

Al Rubaie said, however, that “Iraq should not gloat over what is going on in Syria, and it should not interfere in the internal affairs of any neighbouring country, whether it is an Arab or Islamic country.” He said that “the best way for resolving the Syrian crisis is through gradual change toward democracy and through dialogue between the government and the Syrian opposition,” expressing belief that “there is still time for conducting this dialogue by adopting the Arab initiative, which we strongly support since it is the best solution for the crisis.”

Al Rubaie added in a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat from Baghdad that “the sudden change of the Syrian regime by a foreign military interference, whether it is the NATO or any other side, would create a vacuum in the whole region and things may reach the point of a civil war that is engineered by some states for their own interests,” pointing out that “reaching this point would directly influence the security situation in Iraq since the sudden change of the Syrian regime would bring in the Islamic extremists to power, and these are the same people who used to cross or to send the terrorists to Iraq, and this will bring catastrophes to our country and people.”

On the possibility of success of the dialogue between the government and the Syrian opposition, the former Iraqi national security adviser said that “yes, following a peaceful way for dealing with the Syrian crisis and holding dialogue while employing pressure on the Syrian regime to introduce changes would lead to positive results.” He expressed belief that “the radical change is coming to Syria within one year from now, and Bashar al-Assad supports introducing change toward democracy, but the problem is in the old guard who are around him and who reject change.”

Al Rubaie, who is close to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, denied that Iraq “has offered a safe refuge for Bashar al-Assad and his family in case the Syrian president relinquishes power in Damascus,” and said in response to information received from Baghdad that “it has not been proposed to Iraq, whether officially or unofficially, to host Al-Assad and his family or those close to him, and no request to this effect has been made by Al-Assad’s family or one of his associates or by an Arab or non-Arab quarters, and we believe that there are countries and regimes that are closer to Al-Assad than Iraq,” pointing out that “this issue depends on the developments in the situation inside Syria, and in case such a request is presented to Iraq, then every session has a different discussion.”

The former Iraqi national security adviser does not think that “the Syrian regime would go in a dramatic way the same as what happened in Tunisia, Egypt, or even Libya, and that there would not be a foreign military interference because the repercussions of such issue are dangerous, particularly to Iraq, which has a border that is 700 kilometer long with Syria.”

Al Rubaie also said that “Iraq does not support the Syrian regime against its people, and our stand was clear at the Arab League, as Iraq does not want to interfere in the internal affairs of any Arab country and is against the suspension or the expulsion of a founding member of the Arab League, and the United Nations has never expelled any of its members,” pointing out that “the situation in Yemen is worse and things erupted there before the incidents in Syria, but the Arab League has not taken any measures against the Yemeni regime even though there is a Gulf initiative with which Ali Abdullah Saleh is playing tricks.”

On the impact of the Syrian crisis on the security situation in Iraq, particularly since the crisis coincides with the withdrawal of the US forces from Iraq since the Iraqi forces do not have an air cover or weapons that are able to repel any foreign aggression, Al Rubaie said that “the Iraqi military and security forces are able to protect the internal conditions and confront the armed groups and terrorists, which means that there is a capability to preserve internal security.” As for safeguarding the Iraqi borders and skies, he said that “Iraq believes that no one of the neighbouring countries has the intention at present to cross the Iraqi borders.”

Answering a question on the Iraqi land forces’ crossing of the Iraqi borders and the violation by their warplanes of the Iraqi airspace and the shelling of Iraqi villages in the Iraqi Kurdistan by the Iranian forces, Al Rubaie said that “the crossing of the Turkish land and air forces of the Iraqi land and airspace and the shelling of the Kurdish villages in the Kurdistan Region by the Iranian forces have taken place and are taking place in light of the presence of the US forces, which did not prevent the occurrence of these incidents.” He pointed out that “Iran’s justification for shelling the Iraqi Kurdistan villages was to curb the activities of the opposition Iranian Kurdish party, BIJAK, and the Turks are shelling to curb the activities of the opposition of the Kurdistan Workers Party, and that these things are taking place within the framework of unsigned agreements between Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and the US forces, and I do not say within the framework of consents by the Iraqi Government, and most likely these agreement were present during the reign of the former Iraqi regime.”