Syria has recalled its ambassador to Baghdad after Iraq did the same, in protest at a series of bombings.
Iraq is accusing Syria of sheltering former Iraqi Baath Party leaders who masterminded attacks which killed 100 people. Earlier this week, Iraqi state TV broadcast Saddam-style televised confessions, where the ‘bombers’ admitted a Syria connection.
One of them said he was acting under the orders of a man called Sattam Farhan and a wing of the Baath Party led by Mohammad Younis Al-Ahmed.
Iraq is demanding Syria hand over Farhan and Al-Ahmed. But foreign diplomats in Damascus say Syria expelled Al-Ahmad earlier this year.
Maybe Iraq needs to sort its story out, before it broadcasts fake confessions to the world.
More likely, this isn’t about international politics, but domestic concerns. Nuri Al-Maliki has been shaken to the core by a new Shia political grouping which has just been formed in Iraq. It deliberately excludes his Dawa Party. And he faces elections in just four months.
Al-Maliki needs to appear the hardman. And all guns are already blazing on Baghdad’s streets – so why not take it out on that old scapegoat: Syria.
But this really is all about posturing.
Nuri Al-Maliki probably doesn’t even want the Baath leaders transferred to Iraq. Sami Moubayed makes an interesting point when he says they’re better off in Syria, where they could be coaxed into pulling the right Sunni strings in Iraq, rather than rotting in an Iraqi jail.
And maybe Nuri should remember his days in Damascus. When Saddam demanded rebel leaders like Nuri be handed over, Syria refused. That saved Nuri Al-Maliki’s personal and political life.
Why should Syria act any differently now?