(WASHINGTON) — During talks with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari in Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry warned Thursday of a combination of factors that threatens to destabilize Iraq’s fragile democracy.
More than a year and a half since U.S. forces completely withdrew from Iraq, the country faces a resurgence of al Qaeda fighters as well as Sunni and Shiite extremists trying to replicate the sectarian warfare that nearly split Iraq several years ago.
For his part, Zebari said his country is “not having a civil or sectarian war….We’ve been there before in 2007, 2008. We are not going to go there again.”
Yet, the ongoing conflict in Syria is also helping the insurgent cause in Iraq, according to Kerry, because of the flow of fighters and weapons over the porous border that they share.
Kerry asserted, “With many al Qaeda leaders now operating in Syria, we all need to accelerate our work in order to set the conditions for diplomatic settlement for the Syrian crisis.”
Again, Zebari seemed to downplay the Syria factor, telling reporters, “We kept our distance on both sides of the conflict and Iraq has not provided arms, money or oil to the Syrian regime.”
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Barbara Starr, CNN
Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
Barbie Latza Nadeau, Tim Hume and Vasco Cotovio, CNN