Friday, September 11, 2009

Saddam revisited as Iraq accuses Syria of sheltering Baathist bombers

In the Saddam-Hafez era, they hanged each other's bombers

By Robert Fisk

"In Damascus and Baghdad, it almost feels like the old days. Mutual abuse and recriminations, the recalling of ambassadors – and only a matter of time, perhaps, before Syria and Iraq break diplomatic relations.

Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, demands an international tribunal because Syria won't hand over a couple of Iraqi Baathists whom he blames for the suicide bombing deaths of at least 100 civilians in Baghdad. Syria snaps back that it's always been a refuge for those facing "injustice".

Twenty years ago, Saddam Hussein and Hafez el-Assad sent bombers to Damascus and Baghdad to blow up each other's cities.Now Maliki and Hafez's son, Bashar, are attacking each other.......

Yet Syria clearly has the better memory, Maliki the shorter. Back in the bad old days of mutually hostile Syrian-Iraqi Baathism, Maliki and Jalal Talabani – now the President of Iraq – sought refuge in Damascus from the fury of Saddam's regime. Both were grateful – or at least they were then – that Hafez had taken mercy on their souls and welcomed them to the "mother of the Arab nation" (another Syrian sobriquet). Today, the Syrians have been quick to remind the pair of this act of generosity – and to point out their hypocrisy........

Syria never handed over people threatened with death, it tells us. But wasn't there a Kurdish guerrilla leader – a man called Abdullah Ocalan – who was nurtured by the Syrians, supported by the Syrians, threatened with death by the Turks, and then summarily told to leave Damascus when the Turks threatened military action against the Assad regime?........"

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