Wednesday, 23 July, 2014
Iraq’s Shiite-led government is demanding that Jordan extradite Sunni opposition leaders who it claims had a hand in the turmoil buffeting Iraq, as trade and diplomatic ties between the two neighbors plunge to historical lows.
Last week, Iraqi Sunni tribal, political, rebel and business leaders met at the “Amman Conference to Save Iraq,” which urged the international community to act against the government of the embattled Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The meeting was attended by several prominent figures from Saddam Hussein’s Baath party, who have been scattered in regional countries since the dictator’s 2003 fall.
“The majority who attended the conference in Amman are involved in the shedding of Iraqi blood,” claimed Qassim Atta, spokesman for the military commander-in-chief, adding they were wanted under terrorism laws.
The participants themselves had insisted the aim of the meeting was to find a way out for Iraq from the current crisis, where jihadi-led militants have captured a third of the nation, the large Sunni population is up in rebellion, and there is only a dithering acting government in Baghdad.
At the news conference in the Iraqi capital, Qassim revealed the names of 20 prominent Sunnis who were at the Amman meeting and are wanted by Baghdad. He called on Jordan to extradite them to stand trial, and threatened to send their arrest warrants to Interpol, the international police.
Naming some prominent ex-Baathists, Qassim said: “Everyone knows who is Nasser al-Janabi and who is Bashar al-Faidhi and other such notorious figures. We will pursue them legally.”
“We call on the Jordanian side to hand them over because they conspired openly against the people and the democratic process and want to return to the previous regime, Halabja and Anfal,” Atta said, referring to anti-Kurdish genocide campaigns launched under Saddam in the 1980s.
Iraq has enjoyed historically good relations with its neighboring kingdom, despite internal and regional upheavals. Jordan has been the recipient of discounted Iraqi oil.
But Baghdad has been so infuriated with the meeting that it recalled its ambassador from Amman. The Iraqi foreign ministry posted a statement on its website demanding Jordan explain the hosting of the conference, calling it “internal interference.”
In what appears to be Baghdad’s answer to Sunni tribal leaders who attended the conference, Maliki held his own meeting with Sunni tribal chiefs from Anbar, Kirkuk, Saladdin and Nineveh. He called on them to “defend the security of the provinces against the terrorist groups.”
At the meeting Maliki and the tribal leaders agreed on forming committees to train and arm their tribesmen. “The government is ready to provide whatever the tribes need to protect their territories,” Maliki vowed.
After Sunni leaders from Anbar met in May in the Kurdish capital of Erbil, Maliki accused the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Turkey of supporting “terrorists” against his government, and said that Kurdistan has become a safe haven for Islamic and Baathist extremists.
The KRG dismissed the allegations as “absurd and unfounded,” and Kurdish ministers have since stayed away from attending government meetings and affairs.
The strained relations with Jordan are affecting trade, with large volumes of goods reportedly stuck on the border: Iraq is one of the largest importers of goods made in Jordan.
Jordan, a major ally of the United States, has been concerned about the rising Islamic extremism in the region. It has pursued a neutral policy toward political and security events in Iraq and Syria. The Amman conference was seen as a break from Jordan’s former tradition of disassociating itself from the internal affairs of Iraq.
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