Devastation in the Salaheddine neighborhood of Aleppo. Photo by James Harkin.
The carnage is mounting in Iraq, with dozens or scores killed nearly every day. Meanwhile, Iraq is critical to both the Syrian civil war and to Iran, with whom Iraq has increasingly close ties. The war in Syria, in particular, has spilled 207,000 refugees into Iraq, and the Syrian rebels—especially the Sunni-led terrorist movement, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, an Al Qaeda affiliate, the Al Nusra Front, and other extremists—have essentially become one with Iraq’s bloody oppositionists.
So it’s no surprise that yesterday Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, warned that Iraq opposes arming the Syrian rebels.
Zebari’s warning comes as The New York Times reports that a big chunk of the so-called “moderate” Islamist rebels inside Syria formally broke ties with the phony, US-backed National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. That decision vastly complicates President Obama’s ability to lobby on behalf of the Syrian opposition. Recognizing the problem, a US official told the Times, using circular reasoning, that the United States has “extreme concerns about extremists.”
During an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Zebari endorsed the US-Russian effort to reach an accord on Syria’s chemical weapons, and he called for a “peaceful settlement” of the Syrian civil war. There is, he said, “no hope of military victory” for either side. But, in a message clearly aimed not only at the United States but at Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, Zebari said: “We oppose providing military assistance to any [Syrian] rebel groups.”
During the summer, President Obama—after long resisting pressure to do so—announced plans to give lethal aid to Syria’s fighters in the effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad. It isn’t clear yet how much weaponry has reached the rebels, who are increasingly led by Al Qaeda and other radicals, since the delivery is being handled as a covert operation by the CIA. But Zebari was making it clear that aid to the rebels directly destabilizes Iraq.
Iraq is deep in crisis. Terrorist attacks kill people daily, by the dozens, and Americans should remember with some horror that all of this carnage is the direct result of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent destruction of the Iraqi government, army and police. Here’s a brief rundown of terrorist actions there just in the past week or so, not at all comprehensive and just the tip of the iceberg: