Iraq has adopted a more ambiguous attitude toward Syria, a consequence of its delicate sectarian realities. The majority Shiites in Iraq are generally supportive of the Assad regime, which is dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite backed by Iran, Syria’s closest regional ally, has voiced support for Assad’s promises of reform. Iraqi Shiites worry that if Assad should fall, he could be replaced by a new regime reflecting the Sunni majority in Syria. For that same reason, Iraqi Sunnis, many of whom share tribal links with Syrians living in the eastern half of the country, are sympathetic to the opposition and could lend material support if the violence worsens.