Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Iraq seeks an international tribunal to investigate foreign interference

Iraq continues to insist on internationalizing the crisis with Syria, which began after Iraq demanded that Syria hands over senior Ba’ath Party members. Iraq now plans to persuade the international community to form an international criminal court, similar to the one investigating the assassination of the late Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stressed at a meeting with the Turkish FM that Iraq “will move forward to demand that the UN forms an international tribunal to prosecute those who committed ugly crimes that target Iraq’s stability and people and killed many innocent lives”.

Foreign minister Hoshyar Zibari echoed the plan and actually hinted that Iraq would want the tribunal to look into more than just the August 19 attacks. “Iraq is to talk to the UN about forming an international criminal tribunal to investigate all crimes that undermined Iraq’s national security” said Zibari.
Maliki’s adviser, Sadik al-Rikabi confirmed that Iraq intends to open the files of foreign interference and is going to do something about “all countries that foment instability in Iraq”.

Rikabi’s statement sounds like an attempt to appease Iraqi politicians who criticized the government for focusing on Syria but not condemning Iran, In my opinion Iraq can hardly handle this standoff with Syria, let alone Syria and Iran simultaneously.

Iraq has so far succeeded in making the crisis an international issue. First, Turkey and Iran stepped in to mediate between Iraq and Syria and now France and the United States too are trying to contain the escalation and calling for resolving it with dialogue.

However, I doubt that Iraq would be able to garner enough international support for a tribunal similar to the one handling the Lebanese situation. The reason for that is that, in my opinion, Iraq has chosen the wrong time for this. The international community, particularly the US and France are trying to reassure Syria and persuade it to break ties with Iran.
The situation in the Middle East is complex. Syria, while having interest in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, prefers to negotiate the situation in these places not with the people who live there, but rather with the greater powers that can offer something in exchange.

In this context, Iraq’s demands could disrupt Western efforts for rapprochement with Syria who might presume that the US stands behind this unprecedented pressure from Iraq. The US, after all, still has considerable influence in Iraq.

This kind of misunderstanding could derail all efforts to reassure Syria and encourage it to break ties with Iran. As a result, Syria could fall back into Iran’s arms, which of course serves Iran’s interests.

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