Top Arab parliamentarians in Syria for first visit since 2011
The Damascus visit of a delegation of Arab parliamentary leaders, led by Iraqi MP Muhammad Al-Halbousi, continues Iraq's strong support for Syria in recent years
By News Desk - February 26 2023

Final Communique of the 34th conference of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union in Baghdad
(Photo Credit: Gulf Times)

The president of the Iraqi parliament, Muhammad al-Halbousi, led a delegation of the Union of Arab Parliaments to Syria along with a number of other Arab parliamentary leaders to express support for the Syrian people, RT reported on 26 February.

This marks the first visit since 2011, when Syria was suspended from the Arab League in Cairo under allegations of human rights abuses during ‘crackdowns on protests.’

The parliamentary leaders, who were participating in the thirty fourth Union of Arab Parliaments conference in Baghdad, began arriving at the Damascus airport on Sunday. Iraqi MP Halbousi announced the formation of the delegation yesterday at the conference.

During his speech at the conference, Halbousi called for all Arab countries to adopt a lasting decision to return Syria to the Arab fold, to play their Arab and regional and international role effectively, to work seriously for Syria’s stability and the rehabilitation of its infrastructure, and for the return of the Syrian refugees to their homeland.

Halbousi said in a statement that “Syria has in recent days experienced difficult circumstances due to the destructive earthquake that caused massive damage and loss of life and wealth. And this obligates us all to continue to provide support and assistance to mitigate the repercussions of the crisis and its difficult effects.”

Muhammad al-Halbousi is a Sunni politician from the town of Garma in Anbar province, where he also served a term as governor in 2017.

Halbousi’s efforts to end Syria’s international isolation continues Baghad’s strong support for Damascus in recent years, including during the Syrian government’s effort to defeat the foreign-backed Salafist insurgency, which included various Al-Qaeda affiliated groups, between 2011 and 2018.

This support resulted in strong criticism of the Iraqi government by regional and international powers.

In September 2012, prominent Saudi journalist and general manager of state-owned Al-Arabiya, Abdulrahman al-Rashed, complained of then Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s “umbilical attachment to Syria,” explaining that, “There is no mystery behind” the Syrian government’s survival, because Iraq, led by Maliki’s pro-Iran Dawa party, was supplying the Syrian government with financial support, fuel, and safe land crossings, as well as an air corridor for Iranian planes to bring in the supplies to support the Syrian army.

The Financial Times later reported that then Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal had acknowledged to US Secretary of State John Kerry after the fall of Mosul in 2014 that Saudi Arabia had been supporting ISIS to counter Washington’s support for Maliki’s Dawa party.

By 2014, officials in President Barack Obama’s White House had also turned against Maliki and Dawa, however, in part due to their support for the Syrian government.

A Rand Corporation study noted that the US-Iraqi relationship had become strained “because of the willingness of the Maliki government to facilitate Iranian support to the Assad regime despite significant American opposition.”

With ISIS threatening to take Baghdad after Mosul fell, the Obama administration refused to provide military help to the Iraqi government to stave off the extremist group’s advances. Obama’s foreign policy advisor Philip Gordon explained that “The president was clear he didn’t want to launch that campaign until there was something to defend, and that wasn’t Maliki.”

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