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Iraq-Syria Border

Al Anbar Province in western Iraq shares an approximate 185-mile border with Syria. One of the main problems was infiltration from the area around Al Qaim, where the Euphrates River enters Iraq from Syria. This was a troublesome area, particularly the area up by Rawa. This was a real rat line of people that would come in from Syria, up along Rawa, and down to Haditha. At Haditha they could either go down to Ramadi, in past Fallujah, and into Baghdad or they can move north to Baiji and then up to Mosul in the north. So this was a strategic rat line.

In order to affect better security along the frontier, in 2003 the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) broke down the border into sectors and set up schedules to observe various areas of infiltration. Air Force and Navy pilots flew observation missions, as did unmanned aerial vehicles. They also buried seismic sensors called steel rattlers to detect moving vehicles at the border. But the regiment had to cover a huge section of territory and never completely shut down the border.

Infiltrations and operations continued all along the Syrian frontier. All the while, the United States pressured Syria to control its border, and Coalition and Iraqi forces struggled to prevent the infiltration of foreign fighters and outside weaponry. The US raid on a small farming community near the Iraq-Syria border on 26 October 2008 saw a dozen US commandos killing eight Syrian civilians, including a father and his four sons.

By late December 2008 The Iraqi Government was setting up new watch towers to help patrols on the Iraqi borders with Syria prevent any infiltration attempts across these borders.

In December 2009 it was reported that the United States would provide a $49 million border security surveillance system as Baghdad scrambles to build up its security forces amid worsening violence as U.S. troops depart. The border surveillance system is intended to thwart infiltration from Syria, which Baghdad claims shelters al-Qaida and other Sunni insurgents, and from Iran, which U.S. commanders claim arms, funds and trains Iraqi Shiite militants. According to the Multi-National Security Transition Command, the U.S. mission that has charge of training Iraq's security forces, the system will initially cover 175 miles of the Syrian frontier and 250 miles of the Iranian border. But how effective it will be remains to be seen. The system, incorporating camera-equipped watchtowers, infrared and heat sensors, was scheduled to become operational by June 2010.

Since the beginning of 2010 the coalition increased its military deployment along the 375-mile (600 km) border and adopted more aggressive and proactive measures to stop terrorist infiltration from Syria. A 15-foot-high earthen barrier was built along 200 miles of the border to deter infiltration of foreign militants by foot. In March 2010, the coalition unveiled a $300 million program to double the number of Iraqi border police (then numbering less than 9,000), improve their training, and upgrade their equipment.

Iraqi border guard forces in western Anbar began implementing new security measures on 22 September 2010 with the aim of preventing border infiltrations from Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The new measures include building three barriers along the border; the first will be earth mounds, the second barbed wires, and the third control towers. The measures also include lighting high-traffic areas and running regular patrols along the border using satellite tracking devices.

The new berm project, which stretched along the entire Iraq and Syrian border, was completed by Support Platoon, Company A, 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5 on 23 August 2008. Marines surveyed approximately 160,000 yards of ground and searched for gaps in the berm, which serves as a barrier, and added roughly 30,000 yards of berm to the border. It took Support Platoon almost two weeks to complete the project. There was a gap along the Iraq and Syrian border, and they pushed up dirt to connect the northern and southern edges of the berm. This creates obstacles for people crossing the border illegally. The improved berm will not only benefit Coalition forces, but also Iraqi forces as well.

By mid-2009 Syria had mobilized between six and seven thousand troops, including border guards, along Syria's 640 kilometer border with Iraq, in very difficult terrain conditions. These forces had been removed from other areas where there was a greater need, and that their presence along the border demanded support from a large portion of other forces." Along various parts of the border, Syria had (1) erected and repaired three-meter high barriers; (2) maintained and repaired barbed-wire fencing, which was frequently cut by smugglers; (3) paved roads along the border; (4) increased the number of border security posts to 557, with a distance between each of one to three kilometers; (5) assigned between eight to 10 guards at each post in order to prevent "infiltration from Iraq;" (6) sent regular patrols along the border to apprehend infiltrators; and (7) instituted more rigorous airport checks and investigations of arrivals.

About 1,300 kilometers of border fence were completed in the vast, arid plain that separates Iraq from Syria. In January 2010 U.S. and Iraqi officials inaugurated a portion of the country's new border security fence along the Iraqi-Syrian border, as efforts are stepped up to improve security before March 2010 parliamentary elections. Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al Bolani and top security officers showed off the new border security fence with Syria, explaining to reporters that it will reduce both terrorism and smuggling between the two countries. Iraqi officials have complained bitterly in recent months that high-profile terrorist attacks in Baghdad were plotted and executed from inside Syria.

Interior Minister Jawad al Bolani, who was severely criticized by opposition politicians for lax security following suicide attacks in August and October 2010 in Baghdad, stressed the new border fence will prevent terrorists and other unwanted individuals from infiltrating: He says that the most important job of border patrol commanders is to stop infiltration and smuggling to and from Iraq. He notes this is a 24 hour a day job to protect the border from infiltrators, terrorists and others who pose a threat to Iraqi security. Several top Iraqi security forces officers in charge of the border pointed proudly to the new barbed wire fence stretching for hundreds of meters between control towers equipped with cameras to monitor both sides of the border. Colonel Ismail Haqi of the Iraqi security forces says the border patrol has been increasingly successful in catching dubious individuals crossing surreptitiously between Syria and Iraq: He says the security forces have been successful in capturing more than 550 terrorists, infiltrators and smugglers, in addition to seizing quantities of smuggled items.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki frequently claimed that remnants of Saddam Hussein's deposed Ba'ath Party, based in Syria, were trying to either overthrow or discredit his government. Opposition members of parliament regularly accuse the government of security lapses.



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