Al Qaeda a "cancer" in Syria, says Iraq's U.N. ambassador

Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations Hamid al-Bayati in 2007 SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images


(CBS News) Syria is plagued with a civil war, intense fighting, and a refugee crisis that is spilling into neighbor states. Adding to that, the State Department recently confirmed that terrorists from al Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq have migrated into neighboring Syria to fight amid the ongoing unrest between President Bashar Assad and the opposition.

Iraq Ambassador to the U.N. Hamid al Bayati said in an interview with CBS News that al Qaeda is now responsible for multiple suicide attacks in Syria

According to Bayati, it is well known in Baghdad that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad allowed al Qaeda to use Syria as a crossing point and springboard to attack Iraq - and now Syria is tasting a bit of its own medicine. Terrorists, he said, kill everyone, even women and children, and the support that a country gives to terrorist groups can sometimes backfire.

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"It is well-documented fact that the majority of terrorists who came to Iraq after 2003 came through the Syrian border," al Bayati said. "At that time the Syrian government said they were not aware of these terrorists coming to Syria and crossing the borders. But they are from all Arab countries: They came from Saudi Arabia, the majority of the terrorists came from Saudi Arabia, but (they also) came from Yemen, Sudan, Algiers, Tunisia."

In Syria, al Bayati said, army defections "will be a destabilizing force."

The establishment of a base of operations in Syria for al Qaeda --while a war is being fought between the Assad government and the opposition -- is significant and tragic because in Iraq, it undermines the progress that the government has made after U.S. troops departed, al Bayati asserted. In Syria, it makes the possibility of a peaceful transition more difficult, if at all possible.

Al Bayati said: "Al Qaeda is playing a role, even in Iraq. They became very active recently during the holy month of Ramadan. We had the bloodiest day of attacks in which more than 100 people were killed, a couple of days ago, and that's a sign that this kind of fundamentalism, or extremism or al Qaeda, could spill over from Syria to many countries; could be Lebanon, could be Jordan, and even Iraq."

The ambassador said al Qaeda is like a cancer that grows and Syria is suffering now from the surge in al Qaeda presence there.

In Iraq, al Bayati said the security situation is much better and the international community has to come together to solve the problem.

On Syria, he was not as sanguine. After a meeting with Arab League representatives, he said, the General Assembly will pass a Resolution supporting the Kofi Annan peace plan, although diluted, with language removed to call for Assad to step aside. Still, he said, the Arab League came together, while the Security Council has had its hands tied by the Russia and China vetoes. The General Assembly, he said, is now the way forward.

  • Pamela Falk

    Pamela Falk is CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst and an international lawyer, based at the United Nations.

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