ISTANBUL — Iran is using Iraqi airspace to fly supplies to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces and thousands of Iraqi militia fighters have crossed into Syria to support his troops, Iraq’s vice president said Sunday.
Tareq Al-Hashemi, who fled Iraq in December and was sentenced to death a week ago by an Iraqi court, said the government of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki was failing to stop ammunitions and armaments reaching Assad’s forces.
“My country is unfortunately becoming an Iranian corridor to support the autocratic regime of Bashar Al-Assad, there is no doubt about that,” Hashemi told Reuters in an interview in Istanbul.
“It is not only the airspace. It is thousands of militia now inside Syria, supporting Bashar Al-Assad and killing Syrian innocent people,” he said, citing reports he had received from Iraq’s Anbar province, which borders Syria, and from members of the Syrian opposition.
He said Iraqi militia fighters had been detained inside Syria by members of the Syrian opposition.
A senior adviser to Maliki rejected the accusations, saying Iraq was committed to not siding with any party in the Syrian conflict.
“The prime minister ... is always confirming that Iraq will not allow any state to use its airspace to transport arms to Syria,” said Ali Al-Moussawi, Maliki’s media adviser.
Hashemi, a senior Sunni Muslim politician and fierce critic of Maliki, a Shi’ite, fled Iraq after the authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in December, a step that risked shredding a fragile power-sharing agreement among Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs.
An Iraqi court sentenced him to death by hanging last Sunday after a trial on charges that he ran death squads. Hashemi says the case is politically motivated and is built on testimony extracted under torture.
Hashemi said Iraq had been allowing Iran to get around US-led economic sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to give up its nuclear program.
He said Iranians, faced with a sharp deterioration of the rial, were using banks in Iraq to buy US dollars which they then smuggled back into Iran. He said Iraq’s government had also failed to enforce sanctions against Syria.
“It is not only prolonging the life of Assad’s regime but at the same time deepening the poverty of Iraq, because we are still in need of (every) single US dollar,” he said.
Hashemi said his trial was symptomatic of the injustice, corruption, abuse of human rights and growing sectarianism plaguing Iraq under Maliki. — Reuters