London: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has warned that the Middle East would be engulfed by sectarian bloodshed if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is removed.
Maliki gave his most unequivocal support yet to the Assad regime, and even hinted that its downfall could force Iraq into an Iranian-led alliance against the Arab world`s Sunni states, a newspaper reported.
“The killing or removal of President Bashar in any way will explode into an internal struggle between two groups and this will have an impact on the region,” said Maliki, refering to predictions of region wide conflict between Sunni Muslims and the Shia sect.
“It will end with civil war and this civil war will lead to alliances in the region. Because we are a country that suffered from the civil war of a sectarian background, we fear for the future of Syria and the whole region,” he added.
According to the paper, many in Maliki`s coalition fear that if Syria’s Sunni majority were to come to power, it could revitalise Sunni militants in Iraq`s Anbar province who fought a long and bloody insurgency in the aftermath of the US invasion.
Meanwhile, Maliki has refused to align Iraq with a growing Arab consensus to ostracise the Syrian regime for its repression of the uprising against Assad.
It is Maliki`s intimation that Assad`s overthrow could cause a rift between Sunni and Shia states that will cause the deepest alarm in Washington.