Iraq ‘opening to Syrian government’: President Salih
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq’s President Barham Salih announced on Wednesday that Baghdad is “trying to open channels” with the Syrian government and said efforts to depose it since the civil war began in that country a decade ago have failed.
“We in Iraq we are opening to the Syrian government, trying to open channels and encourage help and relief to the Syrian people, and we want to focus on dealing with the extremist issue in some of these areas of Syria which pose a direct security threat to Iraq and to the neighborhood,” the Iraqi president told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, according to The National.
“I’m personally calling for the region to try and embrace this dynamic in Syria,” he added.
The Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad cracked down violently on an uprising sparked by the Arab Spring back in March 2011. The ensuing civil war destroyed large parts of the country, left at least 500,000 people dead and millions more displaced or refugees.
Assad remained in power throughout the war, largely thanks to financial and military support from Iran and Russia, which opposed efforts to depose him.
President Salih argued that other countries should follow Iraq’s lead on Syria since past policies to overthrow Assad have failed.
“You have to have the courage to admit that the present policy has totally, utterly failed and the humanitarian consequences of the conflict in Syria are unquestionably too high and unacceptable, morally and politically,” he said.
“The government is still there and you have thousands and thousands of well-armed militants in the urban center of the Middle East,” he added. “This is not the few handful of men in the remote caves of Afghanistan.”
Another comparison he made with Afghanistan to the present situation in Syria is that “turning a blind eye is not an option” when confronting terrorism.
In recent years, many governments have reestablished relations with Assad. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), for example, reopened its embassy in Damascus in 2018. Iraq has long advocated for Syria’s readmission into the Arab League.
Iraq has also served as a meditator between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia in recent months.
“A lot of conversations have taken place between our Gulf neighbors and the Iranians and the Turks, and a lot of conversations between the Saudis and the Iranian have taken place, and it’s quite a paradox, in some ways, for them to meet in Iraq in an open secret,” he said.