Iraq burns its bridges with Syria

Iraq burns its bridges with Syria

Relations between Iraq and Syria plunged abruptly on Tuesday after Baghdad recalled its ambassador to Damascus over the recent bombings in the Iraqi capital in which 100 Iraqis were killed.

The attacks, which ripped through government buildings on August 19, were the worst in Iraq in over 12 months and came just a day after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki wrapped up a state visit to Syria. While there he boosted political and economic relations with Syria and jump-started bilateral committees to see that security is strongly monitored on the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Since then, however, a tug-of-war has erupted within Iraq between those who blame al-Qaeda and the outlawed Ba’ath Party and those who blame Iran for the Black Wednesday attacks.

Maliki blames both, while Defense Minister Abdul Qadir Obeidi said the weapons used for the attacks had been “made in Iran”. Syria’s name emerged rather suddenly on Sunday, when a former policeman appeared on Iraqi state-run media, claiming responsibility for the attacks, saying they had been ordered by two Saddam loyalists based in Syria. [continued…]

Shiite power broker dies, in blow to Iraqi party

One of the towering figures of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a Shiite who had longstanding ties with Iran but was also a supporter of the American invasion, died on Wednesday.

His death from cancer, at age 59, was a blow to the political group he led, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, which emerged from the war as the country’s dominant political party. But it has steadily lost support over the past year, and this week it announced a new alliance with the party loyal to the scion of another revered Shiite family, the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr.

Still, Supreme Council members hold positions atop important ministries and in Parliament. The group runs charitable organizations, libraries and schools and has a large network of support that stretches back to when Mr. Hakim’s father, Grand Ayatollah Mohsen al-Hakim, was one of the top Shiite spiritual leaders in the world. [continued…]

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