Damascus, Asharq Al-Awsat – The participants in the meetings of the security coordination and cooperation commission of Iraq’s neighboring countries agreed at the end of the proceedings of the second session held in Damascus on the importance of achieving national reconciliation and concord in Iraq and calling upon the Arab League to continue its efforts in coordination and cooperation with the Iraqi government.
The commission discussed over two days the current security situation in Iraq and the security requirements needed to boost the efforts aimed to establish security. It also stressed that border control is a joint responsibility between Iraq and its neighbors. The participants praised the positive cooperation between Iraq and its neighbors in combating terrorism. Asharq Al-Awsat learned from Iraqi sources that the discussion focused on the situation in Basra and the events that took place there recently, and that the Iraqi side talked openly about the entry of Iranian weapons to Iraq and about operations to fund armed groups. The sources said that the Iraqi defense minister had previously announced the confiscation of big quantities of weapons, including heavy ones. The Iranian delegation was confronted with this information but denied it.
Iraqi Interior Ministry Undersecretary General Ali Hussein Kamal stressed in a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat that the Basra issue was at the center of the debates during the meetings and said: ” We were clear and frank in putting forward the Basra issue and what is happening there,” and that “the meeting should be a venue for mutual frankness and disclosure and not a place for diplomatic niceties. The Iraqi blood is not cheap as some seem to think.” Regarding whether names of countries or armed groups were mentioned, Hussein Kamal said “we have not mentioned countries’ names, but we said that there are weapons entering Basra. The borders are open and there is no full control on them. There are groups cooperating with regional quarters and there are funds helping them to do so.”
Regarding the Turkish military operations in the north of Iraq, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Labid Abbawi told Asharq Al-Awsat that “principles have been stressed to avoid military options; ways of dealing with any threat on Iraq or from Iraq have also been stressed” so that problems can be solved “through dialogue and diplomatic means.”
For his part, the head of the Iraqi delegation and [Iranian] Foreign Ministry official, Mohammad-Jalal Firouznia denied the fact that the Iraqi delegation had leveled accusations at Iran regarding responsibility for any negative role in the recent Basra events, and said: “No accusations were made during the meeting. On the contrary, our Iraqi friends stressed the strength of ties between our countries, and we will continue our relations with the Iraqi government on the basis of this cooperation.” He pointed to “Iran’s role in consolidating security on the Iraqi scene,” and that this role was and still is “constructive” as recognized by “the Iraqis, international quarters and even America.” As regards information about the infiltration of Iranian weapons and the funding of armed groups in the south of Iraq, Firouznia expressed regrets at the United States’ perseverance in making those accusations and said “these accusations are continuously made by the United States” and “are absolutely unfounded.” He accused the United States of playing a role which he described as “obscure and suspicious in the events witnessed by Basra and Baghdad recently and causing unrest in Iraq.”
In reply to a question regarding who was the Iraqi Foreign Ministry undersecretary alluding to when he said “regional quarters” which have had a role in the Basra events, the Iranian official said “and who told you that Iran was meant by that?” For its part, the United States expressed its “satisfaction” for participating as an observer in the second meeting of the security coordination commission of Iraq’s neighboring countries, and said that it strongly supports this group in order to see coordination improved with a view to guaranteeing border security in the region. It also stressed in particular the need to assist the Iraqi government in overcoming the threats on the security of its citizens. This came in a communiqué issued by the US embassy at the end of the proceedings of the security commission meeting.
The communiqué said that the terrorist networks active all over the region still represent a big threat to Iraq’s security and consequently the security of the whole region.” It called on the commission to deal with the inflow of weapons manufactured abroad to be used by “criminal militias.” These were “blatantly used during the recent eruption of violence in Basra and the southern region, in addition to Baghdad.” The communiqué pointed to the fact that weapons have been confiscated from these groups, which is proof that they [the weapons] came from abroad. This was considered by the communiqué as “a serious danger that should be dealt with.” The recommendations included 13 points the most important of which are: praising the positive cooperation between Iraq and neighboring countries as well as the efforts exerted by the Iraqi government to this effect, which led to an improvement in the security situation in Iraq. For this to continue, further coordination between these efforts is required, taking practical measures to combat terrorism in all its forms, drying up sources of funding and emphasizing the fact that border control is a joint responsibility shared by Iraq and neighboring countries.