Iraqi Speaker Discusses Impact of Syria on Iraq

Ali Saray interviews Osama al-Nujaifi, speaker of Iraq's Council of Representatives, about how the Syria war is affecting Iraq.

al-monitor US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Iraqi parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi (R) in Baghdad, March 24, 2013.  Photo by REUTERS/Jason Reed.

Topics covered

syrian revolution, syrian, iraq

Apr 8, 2013

Iraqi parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi says Jabhat al-Nusra and the Farouq Brigade represent only 5% of active rebels in Syria and do not have the ability to govern the country after the fall of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Nujaifi told Al-Hayat that the position of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government toward the Syrian revolution had caused a sharp schism in Iraq. He also accused the US administration of not being serious in monitoring the situation in Iran.

He said: “Armed groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Farouq Brigade only represent a small part of the whole revolution against Assad in Syria.” He added: “My information indicates that the two factions represent only 5 percent of the rebels, and they are active only in specific regions in Syria. The rebelling masses — which do not espouse any sort of takfiri mentality or tendency toward taking revenge against other sects — maintain the greater role and have the most influential activity.”

He added, “Voicing our support for the Syrian revolution does not mean supporting all its members.”  He explained: “The groups that I referred to are small groups that are fighting now. Yet, they cannot manage the country, will not get any international support, and do not have the capability to govern.” Nujaifi said he believes that “supporting the Syrian people would eliminate extremism,” adding, “I am sending out a warning about the rise of extremism in Syria, which has stricken fear in the rest of the world, especially regarding the possibility that it could delay the final outcome in Syria and halt aid to the Syrian people.”

Nujaifi said, “There will be a solution. … Unfortunately, there have been attempts to make the conflict sectarian ... and to partition Syria based on that.”

Commenting on Assad’s recent remarks regarding the consequences of a possible partition of his country, Nujaifi said it was important to “prevent partition and ensure that a democratic future for Syria takes place once the world chooses the shortest way to overthrow the regime in Damascus.” This was a reference to resorting to a military solution. He added, “This is much better than maintaining the existing unbalanced dynamic between the regime and the rebels.”

On the position of the Iraqi government toward the Syrian revolution, Nujaifi said: “Concerns that some Iraqi political parties have about the possibility that Syria could fall in the hands of terrorists are a pretext to mobilize military forces in Iraq, postpone elections in some provinces and repress demonstrations.”

He explained, “Official Iraqi positions that clearly support the Syrian regime and allow the passage of weapons to it show a significant imbalance, reflect the growing rift within Iraq, and may cause serious consequences regarding the sharp polarization in Iraqi society.”

Nujaifi accused Washington “of failing to keep up with the situation in Iran,” and said, “I do not know if this negligence is deliberate, but the US administration has information on what is going on in Tehran and Damascus airports. It is now talking about an Iraqi promise to inspect planes [using Iraq’s airspace]. ... I question Washington’s seriousness in preventing the Syrian regime from getting weapons.”

Najafi denied that residents of Mosul and Ramadi provinces, which border Syria, had any direct contacts [with Syrian rebels] or provided them with material support. Still, he did talk about kinship between Syrians and Iraqis who live on both sides of the border. He said: “There is no direct link between the residents of Mosul and Anbar and the fighters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) when it comes to supporting them by sending fighters; however, the residents of these provinces feel close kinship with the Syrian people. They come from shared tribes and families.” He continued, “I am a member of the Bani Khalid tribe, which also exists in Homs. We are connected by blood and marriage.”

Nujaifi stressed that “security decisions in Iraq are controlled by the Maliki government, which is working against the FSA. As for us, we hope that the Syrians win and we morally support them. Yet, there is no direct contact with them.”

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