Saturday, November 12, 2011

Iraq Abstained as Arab League Voted on Syria Suspension

The Arab League decided to suspend Syria's membership.
Lebanon and Yemen voted against the measure. Iraq abstained from voting. 
By: Ali Rawaf

A month after Iraq’s government had cracked down on former members of the Iraq Baath regime, it abstained from voting to suspend Syria’s Baathist regime from membership in the Arab League.  

Only two countries voted against the suspension: Yemen and Lebanon. It is understandable why those two would vote as such. The Yemeni is also facing public demonstrations and protests, demanding democracy. Lebanon’s government, which used to be overwhelmed by Syrian influence, is now dominated by Hezbolla, a militant and political group funded by Iran.

Iraq, on the other hand, should have been leading the effort to suspend Syria’s membership. After all, it is the first country in the region that has experimented with democratization. The Iraqi government, which consists predominantly of Shiites and Kurdish politicians, shouldn’t forget how Saddam Hussein massacred the Shiites and the Kurds when they revolted against the government in 1991.

This is yet another alarming move by the Iraqi government. Such actions invoke only concerns amongst Iraqis. Last month, the government launched a campaign of arrests against former Baathists. More than 600 former Baathists were arrested, some of which were government employees and college professors. Why the crack down on harmless civilians but  The Iraqi Prime Minister said the Baath Party, which is banned by the constitution, was conspiring to bring down Iraq’s new democracy, a claim which Iraqis have heard too many times.

If anything, Iraq's decision seems like another favor to Iran, which has pressed the Iraqi government to support the Syrian regime. A few months ago, Prime Minister Al-Maliki hosted a group of Syrian officials and entrepreneurs  to strengthen ties with the next-door neighbor, while the rest of the world was calling on the Syrian president to step down.

Iraq’s abstention to vote to suspend the membership of Syria’s violent and authoritarian regime offers one more clue as to where Iraqi might be headed in the future.

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