Iraqi Shiite Vice President Khodair al-Khozaei has warned that a Taliban-style regime may be established in Syria if President Bashar al-Assad is ousted from power, Arab media reported on Wednesday.
“If the Assad government falls, there is a real danger of Syria turning into a country ruled by a regime similar to that of the Afghan Taliban,” al-Khozaei was quoted as saying.
Such a situation, he said, would endanger not only Syria, but also its neighbors Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
He called on Syrian opposition forces to find “an alternative to the current regime before thinking how to overthrow this regime.”
His statement adds to growing concerns that the Syrian conflict could turn into a sectarian struggle involving all major regional powers. The Syrian government is comprised primarily of Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam representing about 10 percent of the country’s mostly Sunni population of some 22 million.
In Iraq, a Shiite-dominated government has ruled over the minority Sunni Arabs since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein. Iraq has been reluctant to join Sunni Arab countries to impose sanctions on Syria and was the only Arab nation to abstain from a vote to suspend Syria's membership in the Arab League over Assad’s crackdown on protesters.
The Taliban, a Sunni Islamist group, ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001 until they were ousted by the U.S.-led invasion following the 9/11 attacks.