Despite their dreadful experiences with the Baath party, Iraq’s Shiite religious political blocs are concerned over the possible collapse of the party in Syria and fundamentalist Sunnis coming into power, experts told Al Arabiya.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, said that “tyranny” and “oppression” justify the popular protests sweeping the Arab world from Morocco to Syria.
But other Shiite political figures in Iraq have been more cautious in their support for demonstrators calling for freedom and democracy in the Arab world.
Sheikh Jalal Eddin Al-Saghir, a top leader in the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (SCIRI), explained the differences between the ruling Baath party in Syria and the Baath party of Saddam Hussein.
“Syria has stood with the opposition [in Iraq]…and we cannot talk about the two in the same manner. There is a difference between the criminal regime that used to rule in Iraq in the name of a party and the Baath party in Syria,” he said.
Mr. Saghir added, “We have to take into consideration that Iraq would be the most affected by instability in Syria.”
Meanwhile, Khalid al-Asadi, a member of the National Alliance, said foreigners instigated the unrest in Syria; he denied the protests were motivated by a genuine demand for reform and freedom.
“The unrest in Syria is a very sensitive issue for Iraq and we must not compare it to other Arab uprisings,” Mr. Asadi said.
Latif al-Amidi, a scholar at the Islamic School in Najaf, said he was “afraid of [Sunni] fundamentalists reaching power in Syria if President Bashar al-Assad's Baath party is overthrown.”
Hamid Fadil, a political science professor at Baghdad University said that the Shiites, who waited for 80 years to reach power in Iraq, “are afraid to be surrounded by Sunni regimes in the region.”
Michel Aflaq, a Christian, and Salah al-Bitar, a Muslim, established Syria’s Baath party in 1947. The secular party, which combines Arabic nationalism and socialism, came to power in Syria in 1963 and in Iraq in 1968.
(Mustapha Ajbaili of Al Arabiya can be reached at: Mustapha.firstname.lastname@example.org)