Published January 14, 2015
Iraq has evidence that its neighbors were interfering in its internal affairs, Baghdad's defense minister said in an interview published Tuesday, and he threatened reprisals.
Interviewed by the London-based Asharq Awsat newspaper, Defense Minister Hazem Shalan al-Khuzaei (search) blamed neighboring Iran, but gave no details.
"If they do not stop this we will move it to their own streets," he said in another interview, with the Gulf-based Al-Arabiya television.
At a regional meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Iraq was expected to complain to its neighbors that they aren't doing enough to help it stop violence and may even be fomenting trouble.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari (search) was to meet his counterparts from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait, Iran, Syria and Jordan to discuss attempts to stabilize the country following a U.S.-led invasion a year ago.
While host Egypt does not border Iraq, it is a Mideast heavyweight and has had a key role in a series of such meetings aimed at addressing concerns volatility in Iraq could affect the whole region.
The group has met five times since U.S. forces overthrew Saddam Hussein in April 2003.
U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (search) and EU representative Javier Solana (search) also were planning to take part in the discussions. They were likely to urge Iraq's neighbors to fully back Iraq's new interim government.
Iraqi leaders facing almost daily car bombings and firefights accuse foreign Muslim infiltrators of being behind some of the deadliest attacks and say neighboring countries are either facilitating or turning a blind eye to cross-border infiltration.
Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia say it is difficult to control their long, porous borders with Iraq.
Washington, which still leads some 160,000 multinational troops in Iraq, has accused the Iranians of meddling in Iraq in hopes of turning the country, with its Shiite Muslim majority, into a Shiite theocracy like Iran.
Iranians deny the charges, but are worried about the continued military and political influence in Iraq of the United States, a longtime foe.
Egyptian Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said during their meetings in Cairo, Iraq's neighbors will "reaffirm their commitment to the principle of noninterference in Iraq's internal affairs."
Neighboring countries have their concerns, too.
A proposed federal system that would meet the political aspirations of Iraq's ethnic and cultural groups, such as the Kurds in the north and Shiite Muslim Arabs in the south, worries some of Iraq's neighbors.
Turkey fears that a Kurdish federal province could incite some 12 million Kurdish Turks to push for autonomy. Ankara fought a 15-year war against Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey.
In an interview that appeared Tuesday in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul reiterated Ankara's fears that Kurds will take over Iraq's oil rich province of Kirkuk, where tens of thousands of ethnic Turkish Iraqis live.
He compared Kirkuk to Bosnia, where fighting over control of the former Yugoslav federal province sparked an ethnic war.
"Everyone is aware that this is the issue that could end up being the greatest headache for Iraq," he said.
Iraq's northwestern neighbor, Syria, which has a sizable Kurdish population, has similar fears.
On Monday, Iraq's prime minister Iyad Allawi, making his first regional tour since taking office, won support from Jordan's pro-U.S. king. In a statement released after their talks, King Abdullah reaffirmed his countries' support for Allawi's "efforts to reinstate security and stability in Iraq."
Iraqi officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Allawi was due in Cairo Wednesday to address the foreign ministers' meeting. The officials said he was expected to make some proposals for security cooperation between Iraq and its neighbors. They offered no details.