London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The government of Iraq made its first implicit admission of the presence of Iraqi fighters in neighboring Syria on Tuesday.
Ali Musawi, media advisor to Iraqi prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki, said: “The Iraqi government is committed to a policy of abstaining from intervention in the Syria crisis.”
Musawi added that the “government is not responsible for any individual fighting for either side,” a reference to foreign Shi’ites fighting for the Syrian government and Sunnis supporting the opposition.
Over the past few days, Iraq has received the bodies of several young men killed while fighting the opposition near Damascus. So far, no Iraqi group has claimed to have sent fighters to Syria, but the Syrian opposition accuse Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq—known as the ‘League of the Righteous’ or the ‘Khazali Network’—and the Hezbollah Brigades in Iraq of allowing their members to fight alongside the Syrian government.
Meanwhile, Russian president Vladimir Putin said yesterday that President Bashar Al-Assad could have avoided the bloody conflict in Syria by responding more quickly to demands for change.
In a statement to Russia Today, Putin said: “We are not the lawyers of the current government or President Bashar Assad.” He also blamed the West for violent unrest in the Middle East.
In Syria itself, at least 14 people were killed in two suicide bombings near a police station in Damascus, while heavy fighting continued at the Mannagh military air base in the Aleppo governorate.
At the same time, Nick Griffin, leader of the far-right British National Party yesterday made a surprise visit to Damascus, after being invited to participate in a “fact-finding mission,” along with a number of other European politicians.