June 26, 2014
Nawwaf al-Fares was the first Syrian ambassador appointed to Iraq (2008-2012) following an official rupture in relations after Saddam Hussein’s fall in 2003.
High-ranking diplomatic visits ceased completely from the US-led invasion in 2003 up until Syria’s then-Foreign Minister Waleed Moallem visited Iraq in November 2006. Two years later, the two countries appointed ambassadors.
Prior to his Iraqi ambassadorship, al-Fares worked in a division of political security and as governor of four Syrian provinces. Al-Fares defected from the Syrian regime on July 11, 2012, claiming in a widely publicized video that the Syrian regime was subjecting its people to a “horrific massacre” and calling on members of the Syrian military to follow his lead.
Nawaf Al-Fares. Photo courtesy of azzaman.
Al-Fares fled to Qatar and conducted several interviews with Western news media, such as the BBC and CNN, in which he called for military intervention in Syria and alleged that extremist Sunni militants were collaborating with the regime.
This article was originally published here by Italy’s AKI News Agency.
Translation by Syria Direct’s Daniel Wilkofsky.
The former Syrian ambassador to Iraq, Nawwaf al-Fares, asserted that the “sectarian, not political dimension” is what binds together Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Al-Fares emphasized that the tribal councils and former officers in Iraq’s Sunni areas are “stronger” than the Islamic State of Iraq and a-Sham, and that they hold the keys to Iraq’s future.
Al-Fares, former ambassador and currently head of the Gathering of the Syrian People, said in an exclusive interview with Italian news agency Aki that “ISIS is not a regime creation, but their interests overlap and each side serves the other.”
He added that “the regime wants to destroy the moderate opposition, and imprint extremism on the Syrian revolution. ISIS wants control over the Syrian street and the establishment of their Islamic state. The Syrian intelligence services are very familiar with extremist religious groups, they have numerous infiltrators in these groups. They have made large investments in these groups, in several realms, just as it happened in Syria and formerly in Iraq, after Saddam Hussein’s fall.
Concerning the Syrian opposition’s lack of a clear stance towards what is happening in Iraq, al-Fares–who announced his defection from the Syrian regime two years ago, said that “the opposition leadership is weak and dependent, their stance is that of whomever supports them. They have no independent position.”
The former Syrian ambassador to Baghdad (2008-2012) denied that ISIS is stronger than the tribes and former Iraqi military officers in the Sunni provinces, stating that “the tribes and tribes’ councils, and former officers, they’re stronger [than ISIS] and the future is theirs, but today, in front of a shared enemy, all rebel parties benefit from the abilities of the others. This is a temporary situation.”
According to his intimate knowledge of both parties, al-Fares said that “al-Maliki hates Bashar al-Assad, for a number of reasons that I don’t have time to go into now. But what joined them is the sectarian dimension, and the sects are standing shoulder to shoulder in this region.”
As for whether the Syria-Iraq borders will witness a flood of Sunni combatants, as they witnessed a flood of Shiite combatants to bolster the Syrian regime, Fares, who worked previously as head of a political security division, and later as governor of [four] Syrian provinces, said that “borders between the two countries have been open since 23, and were not closed in the face of any party who wanted to cross.”
Concerning the best means of combating al-Qaeda [ISIS and a-Nusra] in Syria and Iraq, Fares stated that “putting an end to extremism will occur when oppression is lifted from the Syrian people, when the rule of the tyrant al-Assad is over, and the rule of sectarianism is over.
With regard to whether the events in the two countries indeed represent the beginning of a partition of the region, he said “the plans of the Ummah’s [the Islamic world’s] enemies are old and lasting, to partition what has been partitioned. I think that partition is difficult in the face of popular Arabic sentiment in the region.”
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