Baghdad/Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Karim Nouri, an official spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Transport, confirmed that all aircrafts passing through his country’s airspace come under the jurisdiction of the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority, and that they “are subject to random inspections when necessary”. This comes in response to American and Western calls for Iraq to inspect Iranian aircrafts suspected of transferring weapons and aid to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Nouri denied the existence of “any plans to subject all flights to inspection” pointing out that “we adopt a mechanism whereby random inspections are carried out for suspicious flights. Not all flights that pass through our airspace are inspected because this is not possible, practically speaking”. Nouri added that “Iraq’s airspace is open for planes from several countries including Iran, Turkey, Kuwait and others”. He noted that “Iraq has already informed the Iranians of the possibility of carrying out random inspections of suspicious flights, in line with Iraq’s commitment to international resolutions”.
Regarding the number of flights that pass through Iraqi airspace, Nouri said that he “cannot pinpoint the exact number, but any aircraft that we suspect is subjected to an inspection”. Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh had previously told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Iraq has informed the Iranians that it will inspect suspicious aircrafts”, pointing out that “this move is part of the wider policy of neutrality that Iraq is committed to with regards to the Syrian crisis”.
Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition believes that Iraq’s stance on inspecting Iranian aircrafts is a “media ploy” with the aim of promoting Iraq’s “neutrality” towards the Syrian crisis.
Ahmed Ramadan, a member of the executive office of the Syrian National Council, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “we were not in any doubt, but information now confirms that the Syrian regime is using Iraq as a conduit for the transfer of weapons and equipment coming from Iran, which is used in the killing of its own people”. Ramadan explained that “after other crossings were closed off in the face of Iran, it began using Iraqi airspace to transport weapons”, referring to “an agreement signed by Iraq, Iran and Syria to allow trucks and planes to pass from Iran to Syria without inspection, so that weapons, ammunition and equipment can be transported for the benefit of the al-Assad regime”.
Ramadan stressed that “Iraq has a moral, legal and political responsibility to allow equipment to pass through its territory, which is then used by the Syrian regime to murder the Syrian people”. He confirmed that: “we welcome Baghdad notifying the Iranians of the need to stop transferring weapons to Syria, but we want to see actual results”.