Asharq Al-Awsat- While Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki hinted that Syria shoulders responsibility for Wednesday’s bombings and that Iraq would have responded in the same way “were it not for our values, concern, and desire to reach an agreement with this state to get rid of those it is sheltering”, his adviser Sadiq al-Rukabi has stated that what Al-Maliki meant “is that any country can host another country’s oppositionists. Iraq can host the Syrian opposition in the same way that Syria is hosting oppositionists to Iraq.” He added however that “the Iraqi Government will not play the same game.”
Asked if Syria refused to extradite to Iraq those it considers responsible for the recent bombings, al-Rukabi said “the government can act in two directions. The first is to look toward Syria’s cooperation in this matter and the other through the UN framework, especially as the latter has a previous resolution on the issue of terrorism in Iraq, specifically Resolution1618 which urges all countries to demonstrative effective cooperation for arresting the perpetrators of terrorist actions and those sponsoring them and for trying them. There is in addition another Security Council Resolution No.1483 which talks about criminals who are fugitives in neighboring countries. We therefore believe it is our right to demand from the Security Council and the international community to stand with the Iraqi people against those lying in wait for them.”
On Al-Maliki’s recent visit to Syria, which was described as successful, and how the relations would fare following the recall of the two countries’ ambassadors, Al-Rukabi said “Iraq has always expressed its desire to establish the best relations with neighboring countries, including Syria, particularly as we exercised self-restraint and patience all these past years, and this makes it incumbent on us to shoulder our responsibility of defending our people.” Asked if Al-Maliki presented the Syrians with a list of wanted persons, the prime minister’s adviser stressed that “the security issue was at the top of the dossiers discussed by Al-Maliki and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during his recent visit.” He refused however to disclose any further information.
Moreover, Iraqi Government Spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said “we informed the Syrian side that we are ready to conclude a strategic agreement with you on condition of extraditing the criminals and expelling the terrorist organizations from your territories. But they refused.” He asserted to Asharq Al-Awsat that the “Iraqi state does not barter the lives and blood of its citizens for a relationship with any country, in particular Syria. Our citizens’ lives and blood are more important than any relationship with any country and therefore the Iraqi state will not be lenient after what happened and will put relations within the framework where they should be and act at the international level to make the world realize that there are crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide launched from some countries of the region. There must be an international effort to help Iraq stop this kind of crimes launched from this country.” He added that “our relations have now reached the point of differentiation and the Syrian Government must choose either to have good relations with Iraq or keep persons who are hostile to the Iraqi people.”
Regarding the security agreement between the two countries, Al-Dabbagh said “we have a security agreement with Syria through meetings and the Arab interior ministers’ agreement on extraditing and exchanging criminals. There are even persons wanted by Interpol which Syria is refusing to extradite. There are terrorists accused of terrorist crimes who are in Syria but the latter is refusing to extradite them too.” Asked if there are lists of specific names which the Iraqi Government is demanding their extradition from the Syrian side, he said: “Certainly. There are lists of the names of wanted persons which were handed to the Syrian side. Now, we will not accept anything less than the extradition of these people who are accused of terrorist crimes and the expulsion of the organizations operating against Iraq. We will not accept anything less than this.”
In Washington, a US State Department official said instatements to Asharq al-Awsat that Iraqi-Syrian relations “are an important indicator for the United States in the policy of openness which President Barack Obama’s administration is pursuing with Damascus.” US officials have repeatedly said that Syria’s dealing with Iraq and the extent of its security cooperation are a basic part of the US dialogue with Syria and an important indicator of Syria’s willingness “to play a positive role” in the region. The official reiterated this stand and said “the dialogue with Syria and Iraq about the sources of security concerns regarding their common borders represent an important part of the President’s commitment to a principled contact with Syria and to continuing close coordination with Iraq.” She refrained from commenting on the decisions of Iraq and Syria to recall their ambassadors and the Iraqi demand from Syria to extradite elements suspected of involvement in the bloody bombing which shook Baghdad and only said: “We have been worried since 2003 about the issue of the foreign fighters who are entering Iraq. We are seeking to deal with this challenge through cooperation and dialogue.” She added: “This is an important step in dealing with the issue through cooperation and dialogue between the Iraqi and Syrian Government.”
It remains unknown whether the recall of ambassadors means an end to the Iraqi-US-Syrian dialogue about the borders’ security which started last week following a US security delegation’s visit to Damascus. The spokeswoman said: “We are consulting effectively with the Syrian and Iraqi officials about how to press ahead in implementing the tripartite cooperation.”