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Kerry wants Iraq to stop arms shipments to Syria. Why would Iraq agree?

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Jason Reed/AP

(Read caption) Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the media aboard an Air Force C-130 on his way back from Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday. Kerry is calling for Iraq to stop sending arms to Syria.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry made a previously unannounced stop in Baghdad today, and in the process unintentionally highlighted the difficult job he's been assigned in advancing the US diplomatic agenda as regards to the Syrian civil war.

The US would like to see the government of Syria's Bashar al-Assad fall, and has been expanding "non-lethal" support towards that objective even as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States have been arming the rebels.

But Iraq is on the other side of the equation. After the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime, a Shiite-Islamist government came to power in the country, with better current relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran than with the US. With Iran backing Mr. Assad, and the likelihood of Sunni Islamists coming to power if Assad falls, Iraq's interests and America's are sharply divergent.

To Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the people fighting Assad look very similar to the Sunni forces, many jihadi, that vehemently oppose his government and continue to carry out mass casualty suicide bombings in Iraq. Al Qaeda in Iraq has already been working with some of the salafi rebel groups in Syria like the Jabhat al-Nusra (ironically on the US State Department's list of terrorist organizations) and their dream would be to have a new friend across the border when the dust settles in Syria, arming and supporting them in their unlikely quest to restore Sunni Arab hegemony in Iraq.  

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