The damage to ties between the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al Maliki, and his Syrian counterpart, the president, Bashar al Assad, is now “permanent”, Syrian and Iraqi politicians and analysts have warned.“If Maliki is re-elected as Iraq’s leader, his relations with Syria will never be warm,” said Mohammad Ghrawi, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq’s (ISCI) chief representative in Syria.
“There is always hope that things will improve and that the two countries can function together on an official basis. But they will never be close, personal relations.”
On August 18, Mr al Maliki met with Mr Assad in Damascus to conclude a strategic partnership between Syria and Iraq, a deal that promised a new era of co-operation. The following day two huge explosions devastated government buildings in Baghdad, killing more than 100 people and wounding 1,000 others. Almost immediately, Iraqi officials publicly blamed Syria for hosting the insurgents behind the attack.Iraq withdrew its recently appointed ambassador to Damascus, and Syria responded in kind. Baghdad then went even further and called on the United Nations to set up a tribunal to investigate the case.
In consequence, the situation was already extremely tense when, on Sunday, Iraqi officials said suspects behind a more recent double suicide bombing originated in Syria.
The blasts on October 25 targeted Iraq’s ministry of justice, killing 160 and wounding more than 500, a death toll that made it the worst single incident in two years.