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Iraqi president urges Assad to reform | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat- A source close to Adel Abdel Mahdi, a leading figure in the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council [IISC], which is led by Ammar al-Hakim, and resigned first deputy of the Iraqi president, disclosed details of the meeting that took place between Abdel Mahdi and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last week.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone from Baghdad, the source which spoke on the condition of anonymity said: “Abdel Mahdi met with Al-Assad in his capacity as a personal envoy of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. The visit was not an official one at all as Abdel Mahdi holds no official post.”

The source explained: “Abdel Mahdi conveyed a written message from President Talabani to President Al-Assad. In his letter, President Talabani urged Al-Assad to carry out genuine political reforms and stop using security and military methods against the Syrian people. He warned that continuation of the situation as it is will open the door to foreign intervention in Syria and make the situation in the region more critical.”

The source that is close to the leading IISC figure said: “The proposal to send a personal, unofficial envoy [to Syria] was the idea of the Iraqi president who did not want to send an official envoy as was preferred by the US Administration, which considered this move a positive step to ensure that the situation in Syria and the region will not develop further.”

The source noted: “President Talabani trusts his former deputy, Abdel Mahdi, a great deal and has close relations with him. Moreover, Abdel Mahdi has positive relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”

The source said: “Abdel Mahdi arrived in Damascus on board a private plane and was not received according to the protocol norms. He was not received by the Iraqi ambassador in Damascus either. Rather, he was received by officials of the Syrian Presidential Palace who accompanied their guest directly to President Al-Assad who received Iraqi President Talabani’s letter.”

The source added: “The Syrian president read the letter, reassured his guest that the situation is well, and told him that there is no worry over Syria, its people, and security in the region. He highly valued the Iraqi president’s initiative and Abdel Mahdi’s visit because it is the first visit by a high-ranking Iraqi politician.”

The source continued: “The Syrian president asked Abdel Mahdi to convey a verbal message to the Iraqi president in which he expressed his pleasure at the Iraqi president’s gesture and his concern for the fate of the Syrian people in these circumstances.”

The source disclosed: “Since May, the US Administration has been trying to persuade some Iraqi officials who have influential relations with the Syrian president to talk to him and reach a formula to stop taking military measures against Syrian demonstrators.”

The source said: “Former US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad conducted shuttle trips to Arbil and Al-Sulaymaniyah to persuade President Talabani to visit Damascus and he discussed this move with close aides to President Talabani who has good relations with Al-Assad and can influence him.”

The source added: “Zalmay even said at a closed meeting that President Talabani will deserve a Nobel peace prize if he conducts this mission and succeeds in it. However, sources close to President Talabani said that the president might move to intervene in the issue, but in his own way.”

The source continued: “It seems that President Talabani’s own move came through his personal envoy Adel Abdel Mahdi who, on the one hand, enjoys good relations with Arab leaders and, on the other hand, always seeks to play the role of the man of peace and reach solutions to crises in the region.”

The source noted: “Abdel Mahdi played an effective role during the crisis in Bahrain. Early in May, he visited Turkey and Kuwait t o ease the tension in Bahrain after he received information or messages indicating that Iran would intervene in Bahrain, as did the Peninsula Shield Forces. And indeed the Iraqi official’s mission contained the crisis.”

The source that is close to Abdel Mahdi was asked whether the Iraqi president’s letter or Abdel Mahdi’s remarks to the Syrian president included leaked information on the United States’ true stand toward the current events in Syria and whether Washington or Europe might forcefully intervene in this issue. The source replied: “I have no knowledge of this. However, what I can say is that the US Administration was not distant from this initiative.”

The source said: “Abdel Mahdi, by nature, is opposed to governments’ violence against their peoples, and his mission in Damascus fitted his policies. Abdel Mahdi explained these policies in the Iraqi Al-Adalah Newspaper, which is published by his office.”

The source added: “In one of the newspaper’s editorials that Abdel Mahdi wrote on the situation in the Arab region, he said: The lesson is that rulers must learn from what happened, seek to achieve justice and freedoms, and work with their peoples to achieve a democracy that will give the citizens the right to choose their rulers, because there can be no one and only leader, a leader party, or repressive regimes.”