A Western diplomat, who was not authorized to speak publicly and insisted of anonymity, said there are indications of Iraqi Shiites playing a role in Syria. He said their activities are not just around Sayyida Zeinab, which he said is used as a ‘‘rallying banner’’ to encourage recruits.
Aram Nerguizian, a Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Iraqi and Lebanese Shiites form ‘‘an important rear guard’’ for Syria’s Assad as his own forces try to make advances against the rebels. ‘‘I'd be frankly surprised if you didn’t see an uptick’’ in the number of Iraqi fighters, he said.
Nerguizian said Iraqi Shiite fighters traveling to Syria are certainly coordinating with Iran to some extent, though it is unclear how much Tehran is calling the shots.
One area of coordination might be in providing transport, since flying Shiite fighters to Syria out of Baghdad might damage Iraq’s international standing and expose it to greater American pressure.
‘‘If you have Iraqi Shia going by land to Iran and then on to Syria, that creates a zone of ambiguity,’’ Nerguizian said.
Elsewhere in Iraq on Monday, a pair of car bombs in the Baghdad suburb of Hussainya and another explosion at a restaurant in the southern neighborhood of Dora in the Iraqi capital killed at least 10 people. Also, attackers in a speeding car threw grenades at Sunni worshippers leaving al-Ihsan mosque in Baghdad’s Mansour neighborhood, killing seven and wounding 16 others. The casualties were confirmed by police and hospital officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the details.
Schreck reported from Baghdad. AP writers Sinan Salaheddin and Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad contributed.
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