Anti-Islam Protest in Baghdad, Iraq Leads to Diplomatic Tensions and Threatens Sweden’s NATO Bid
BAGHDAD/STOCKHOLM – Diplomatic tensions escalated on Thursday as Iraq expelled the Swedish ambassador and recalled its charge d’affaires in Sweden. The move comes in protest at a planned burning of the Koran in Stockholm, which had prompted a heated demonstration in Baghdad. Anti-Islam protesters, granted permission by Swedish police, partially destroyed a book they claimed was the Koran outside the Iraqi embassy but left without setting it on fire. The incident has further complicated Sweden’s bid to join NATO and raised concerns over the protection of diplomatic missions.
The planned Koran burning outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm was called for by anti-Islam protesters, one of whom was an Iraqi immigrant to Sweden who had burned the Koran outside a Stockholm mosque in June. Despite receiving permission from Swedish police for the demonstration, protesters only kicked and partially destroyed the book they claimed was the Koran before dispersing.
In response to the incident, Iraq took strong measures, expelling the Swedish ambassador and recalling its charge d’affaires in Sweden. The working permit of Sweden’s Ericsson on Iraqi soil was also suspended, adding to the diplomatic strain.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom expressed concern for embassy staff’s safety, blaming Iraqi authorities for failing to protect the embassy. In retaliation, the Iraqi government strongly condemned the burning of the Swedish embassy, considering it a security breach, and vowed to safeguard diplomatic missions. Baghdad also warned the Swedish government that any future recurrence of such an incident on Swedish soil could lead to the severing of diplomatic relations.
The storming of the Swedish embassy in Baghdad was met with condemnation from various international quarters. The State Department in Washington condemned the attack on the embassy and criticized Iraq’s security forces for their failure to prevent the protesters from breaching the diplomatic post.
Hundreds of protesters storm Swedish embassy in Baghdad after planned Koran burning outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm prompts outrage.
The demonstration in Stockholm was organized by supporters of influential Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has called for protests against the second planned Koran burning in Sweden in recent weeks. Sadr’s considerable following in Iraq adds to the complexity of the situation.
Sweden has seen several Koran burnings in the past, mostly instigated by far-right and anti-Muslim activists. Recent burnings have caused outrage in the Muslim world and drawn condemnation from various leaders, including the Pope. These actions have also raised concerns about Sweden’s security.
The burnings have further complicated Sweden’s efforts to join NATO. While Turkey announced its decision to ratify Sweden’s application, previous burnings have triggered anger from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has criticized the burnings, acknowledging their legality but deeming them inappropriate.
As the situation continues to evolve, the diplomatic row between Iraq and Sweden remains a matter of concern for both nations and the international community. The fallout from the planned Koran burning has shed light on the delicate balance between freedom of speech and the need to protect the country’s security. For Sweden, this incident poses a challenge to its aspirations to join NATO, adding pressure to address and find a resolution to this sensitive issue.