Backers of Syrian rebels endanger Iraq: Iraqi minister

Wed Feb 27, 2013 6:01am EST
 

By Suadad al-Salhy

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Turkish and Qatari support for Syrian insurgents is tantamount to a declaration of war against Iraq, which will suffer from the fallout of an increasingly sectarian conflict next door, an Iraqi Shi'ite politician said.

Hadi al-Amiri, transport minister and head of the formerly armed Badr Organisation, said Sunni Muslim Turkey and Qatar had stymied all efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict peacefully.

Iraq is calmer than in the communal bloodletting that killed tens of thousands in 2006-2007, but the war in neighboring Syria is straining its precarious sectarian balance.

Amiri accused Ankara and Doha, which support the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, of arming jihadi groups in Syria, where many Sunni militants are fighting, including the Qaeda-approved Nusra Front, which has links to al Qaeda in Iraq.

"Presenting money and weapons to al Qaeda (in Syria) by Qatar and Turkey is a declaration of armed action against Iraq," Amiri told Reuters in an interview this week. "These weapons will reach Iraqi chests for sure."

Sectarian-tinged unrest has been on the rise in Iraq. Tens of thousands of Iraqi Sunnis have staged protests against Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government in their western stronghold of Anbar bordering Syria, and al Qaeda has urged them to take up arms.

Al Qaeda-linked militants appear to be regrouping in Anbar's caves and valleys, with some moving into Syria to join the fight against Assad, whose Alawite sect springs from Shi'ite Islam.

Scores of Iraqi Shi'ite militants are also fighting in Syria alongside forces loyal to Assad, who is backed by Shi'ite Iran.   Continued...

 
Hadi al-Amiri, an Iraqi member of parliament and head of a Shi'ite militia, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Baghdad in this February 17, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Ali Jasim/Files