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Iraq and Syria need state-to-state contact to solve their impasse.

Byline: The Daily Star

Summary: <p>Exactly a week after Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, visited Damascus, Baghdad is withdrawing its ambassador from its neighbor. The reason given this time has been explicit: Stop support for Iraqi Baathists who are accused of being behind horrific truck bombings in the Iraqi capital in recent days.AaAl-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the blasts.

Editorial

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Exactly a week after Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, visited Damascus, Baghdad is withdrawing its ambassador from its neighbor. The reason given this time has been explicit: Stop support for Iraqi Baathists who are accused of being behind horrific truck bombings in the Iraqi capital in recent days.AaAl-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the blasts and the truth behind these particular incidents has yet to come out. But ever since the US invasion of Iraq, we've heard the accusations, whether made sloppily or actually supported by specific information, by Iraqi officials about the following: foreign fighters.

The fact that Syria can't completely police its border with Iraq -- just as the US is lax on its own southern border -- is largely irrelevant. The question is whether Syria is doing what it can to halt the atrocities that are taking place in Iraq.

Syria and Iraq were at engaged in a deeply hostile rivalry for several decades, a seemingly-opaque inter-Baath Party struggle that few outsiders took part in or fully understood, while the intense personality conflict between Hafez al-Assad and Saddam Hussein only added to the mix. The Baath-versus-Baath dynamic collapsed in 2003 with the US invasion of Iraq, and we've been in a transitional phase ever since. Irrespective of whether Baghdad's latest charge is fully true, the Syrian regime should tolerate no such acts; people responsible for killing civilians in Iraq or targeting the regime there is simply unacceptable.

In the current situation, non-state actors can jeopardize national security and hold ordinary people hostage to acts of terror. This highlights the weak role of states, and weak relevance of inter-Arab linkages and coordination. The Syrian state has much more to gain from a strong rather than weak Iraqi state (remember the Kurds?). It's a state that is somehow managing to have close ties to both Iran and the United States: It's not a puppet regime, but more like a shrewd negotiator, caught between two contending pressures.

The only way to solve this impasse over Syria's actions vis-Ea-vis Iraq is by state-to-state contacts. Removing an ambassador as a formal protest is one thing; what's really needed is an intensification of behind-the-scenes discussions between key state officials, to reach a mutually satisfactory outcome. State apparatuses and agencies must act; national policies shouldn't be left to shadowy groups and figures. Any other course can only hurt the cause of individual Arab states, and the Arab state system as a whole.

Copyright 2009, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Aug 26, 2009
Words:485
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