Iraq Moves Troops To Syrian Border

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Iraq Moves Troops To Syrian Border

An Iraqi border policeman looks through a pair of binoculars near the Iraqi-Syrian borders at the Abu Kamal-qaim border crossing. Picture taken September 8, 2012.

 

By   Ali Abel  Sadah for Al-Monitor  Iraq Pulse      إقرأ  باللغة العربية

 
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, commander-in-chief of the Iraqi armed  forces, decided on the night of June 16, to move nearly 8,000 Iraqi troops  toward the Iraqi-Syrian and Iraqi-Jordanian borders. This comes a few days  before local elections are to be held in the cities of Mosul and Anbar.

As attacks and casualties continue to  increase, Iraqi authorities have sent troops to the border with Syria in an  effort to slow the flow of jihadist fighters,A senior military official in Maliki’s military office said in a statement  to Al-Monitor that “four regiments of the ground forces, each  consisting of nearly 2,000 troops and protected by armed helicopters, had  arrived to the border with Jordan and Syria.”
The official, who is a senior officer supervising the security situation in  the Sunni provinces, said, “The objective in moving the troops to the border is  to secure Iraqi areas adjacent to the border and to prevent fighters from  sneaking into [Iraq].”
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added, “The forces that  have finally arrived to the border are equipped with sophisticated heavy  weapons,” without giving any further details.
The province of Mosul had earlier announced the arrival of military reinforcements  into the city to protect voters who will cast their ballots in the provinces of  Ramadi and Mosul, which are adjacent to Syria, on June 17.
During the day on June 16, a series of bombings targeted different Shiite  majority areas in the central and southern parts of the country, while the UN described these acts of violence as “ruthless.”
The car bombings left 30 people dead, including members of the police  force.
Police said that the deadliest attacks took place in the Shiite city of Kut, near the Iraqi capital, Baghdad,  where they targeted an industrial zone and a gathering for construction  workers.
It seemed clear that the bombings targeted civilians, as two car bombs  exploded almost at the same time in a shopping area in the Shiite city of Basra,  killing five people.
Another car bomb killed at least seven in the Shiite city of Najaf.
Last month was the bloodiest month since 2008, as 1,045 civilians and  security members were killed.
Yet, these bombings have a different objective this time, according to a  security assistant for Maliki at the office of the commander-in-chief of the  armed forces.
In a statement to Al-Monitor, Zuheir al-Jalabi, a Sunni consultant  in the security division within Maliki’s office, confirmed that he has  “information on al-Qaeda in Iraq’s new plan to force the troops to concentrate  in the cities, in which the bombings and acts of violence take place.”
Jalabi said, “Gunmen want to reduce the pressure that has been imposed on  them by the Iraqi military at the border for several months.”
He also said, “The bombings in Iraq increase every time Syrian fighters who  oppose the Syrian regime sustain painful military strikes, as just happened in  the Qusair battle.”
Jalabi claimed that “the leadership of Jabhat al-Nusra in Iraq includes  officers in the former Iraqi army, and late President Saddam Hussein’s  intelligence and security services, who currently oversee the coordination  between the fighters in Iraq and Syria.”
Jalabi added that “the Iraqi army is conducting security operations to cut  off communications between gunmen on both sides.”
Yet, Jalabi, head of the Nineveh support council — a security formation  affiliated with Maliki — confirmed that the infiltration of gunmen does not take  place through official border crossings, but through large swaths of land that  make up the long border between Iraq and Syria.
On the other hand, Saadoun Shaalan, a member of the Anbar Provincial Council, told Al-Monitor that  “the armed clashes between Iraqi forces and gunmen on the Syrian side are  increasing along the border.”
Shaalan expressed his belief that the Iraqi army cannot confront gunmen in  the desert because it does not have experience in such a harsh environment.
Ali Abel Sadah is a Baghdad-based writer for both Iraqi and  Arab media. He has been managing editor for local newspapers as well as a  political and cultural reporter for more than 10 years.

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