Iraq joins calls for Assad to step down in Syria

The New York Times reports:

After months of striking a far friendlier tone toward the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, the Iraqi government has joined a chorus of other nations calling on him to step down.

An adviser to the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, said in an interview with The New York Times on Tuesday that the Iraqi government had sent messages to Mr. Assad that said he should step down.

“We believe that the Syrian people should have more freedom and have the right to experience democracy,” said the adviser, Ali al-Moussawi. “We are against the one-party rule and the dictatorship that hasn’t allowed for the freedom of expression.”

The statements from Mr. Moussawi mark a significant change for Iraq. When the United States and several of its major allies called in August for Mr. Assad to cede power, the Iraqi government appeared to be more in line with Iran, which has supported Mr. Assad. The same day as the American statement, Mr. Maliki gave a speech warning Arab leaders that Israel would benefit the most from the Arab Spring.

“There is no doubt that there is a country that is waiting for the Arab countries to be ripped and is waiting for internal corrosion,” Mr. Maliki said in that speech. “Zionists and Israel are the first and biggest beneficiaries of this whole process.”

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