Monday, August 20, 2007

A Sunni curtain-raiser on the Maliki-Assad meetings

Iraqi newspaper Azzaman, no doubt reflecting views current in the Iraqi Sunni establishment, offers a curtain-raiser on the Maliki visit to Damascus that essentially accuses Maliki of being prepared to trade oil for help in tracking down opponents of his "political process". Here is the way the Azzaman reporter puts it:
Meanwhile observers described Maliki's visit to Damascus as an attempt to obtain Arab support via Damascus, and to assure the Syrians of the possibility of ending the whole range of accusations relating to infiltrations into Iraq from Syria, in exchange for Damascus' helping the Iraqi government in secure Arab support, at a time when the gap between the Baghdad government and the Arab countries appears very wide...

And informed Syrian sources in London told Azzaman that the Syrian authorities reject a request from the Iraqi government to turn over to it lists of politicians and military people who oppose the political process and who have been living in Damascus for the last four years. The lists include the names of close to a hundred high-ranking officers in the former Iraqi army. Damascus fears that the [Iraqi] militias will undertake to detain and kill them, or else turn them over to Iranian agencies on charges that they participated in the Iran-Iraq war beween 1980 and 1988, [a request] the sources said goes against the Syrian policy of national openness...

Iraqi government sources, for their part, said Maliki will propose extending an oil pipeline between Iraq and Syria to strengthen economic cooperation and close the gap between the two capitals. But according to Syrian sources, Damascus has rejected, earlier this year, suggestions from the Maliki government on the idea of an tradeoff between oil-related assistance and the political file [relating to] the Iraqis in Syria.


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