Secretary Shapiro in Baghdad, Iraqi Bank Chief Sacked
United States Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew J. Shapiro met with senior officials in Baghdad, highlighting the “ongoing [U.S.] commitment to developing a long-term cooperative bilateral security relationship through training and defense trade.” The meeting came as the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced it will close a consulate in the southern city of Basra. “We will maintain a British Embassy Office in Basra,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said. “However, this will not be staffed permanently.”
In neighboring Syria, Iraqi Shia have been accused of fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad‘s troops by militia fighters and Iraqi politicians. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for “quick” action in Syria, and vowed to support the U.N.-Arab League envoy. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government announced the dismissal of Central Bank Chief Sinan al-Shabib. A government spokesman said Al-Shabib is under investigation for alleged improprieties involving capital requirements for local banks and foreign currency auctions overseen by the central bank.
Safa al-Sheikh, al-Maliki’s acting national security adviser, coauthored an op-ed saying ”the United States faces many pressing questions that will deeply affect how it is viewed by Iraqi Shiites.” Chief among the concerns are the Syrian crisis and the Gulf governments’ crackdown on Shia populations. However, in an op-ed for the New York Times, Marwan Muasher said, “as the Middle East undergoes historic transformation, America must stand up for peace and for change that will lead to the development of open, pluralistic cultures.”