image Photo: Reuters

Iraq tightens Syria border security

The Iraqi military announced a wide-scale operation to bolster security on its border with Syria to curb infiltration of terror groups, drug smugglers and other illegal activities.

The remote 600 kilometer (about 400 mile) desert frontier that has been a flashpoint for tension between Iran-backed groups and the US, as well as due to ISIS incursions and Turkish pressure on Kurdish rebel groups.

Baghdad is resolved to secure the border, which is currently controlled by various opposing forces that include the Iraqi military, Iranian-proxy militias, the Syrian Armed Forces, jihadist organizations such as the Islamic State (ISIS), and United States-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Kurdish-dominated paramilitaries that are combatting ISIS remnants and are also opposed to Turkey.

Ankara has been trying to anchor its growing relationship with Baghdad by urging Iraq to help clamp down on activities of the PKK Kurdistan Workers Party (Kurdish: Partîya Karkerên Kurdistanê‎) insurgent group, which has bases in northern Iraq and allies in the SDF.

“One of the biggest challenges is there’s no one single or unified security partner on the Syrian side,” the Deputy Chief of Iraq’s Joint Operations Command (JOC), Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Al-Shammari, told Reuters. While speaking at an outpost facing into the neighboring Arab Republic, he explained the SDF was just across the border while the SAF was positioned further south, with Syrian opposition groups in control just beyond those areas.

“Engineering work is taking place, as well as digging works, installation of barbed wires and towers. We are continuing to set up units of thermal heat detection and CCTV cameras,” Shammari said, in addition to use of observation balloons.

Iraqi Border Guards Staff Commander Lt. Gen. Haml Abdallah Ibrahim added, “We also worked hard on anti-drugs missions, we caught some groups and right now, thank God, we are working on supporting the federal police and supporting its success as well as building the whole system all the way to Fishkhabour (Iraqi-Syrian border crossing).”

It is important to note that the Iraqi armed forces have so far not maintained a presence along several sections of the border west of the Syrian town of Deir Ezzor, where unidentified aircraft alleged to be Israeli have repeatedly carried out aerial strikes on Iranian targets.

In related developments, extensive reports of a US airstrike on Iranian-linked targets in Iraq have proven false; evidently triggered without corroboration amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran.

TV7 was informed by Iraqi sources that the bombing was launched by ISIS militants against a power transmission tower in the town of Jurf al-Sakhar south of Baghdad, where Iranian-proxy militias are apparently stationed.

The US Central Command, which is tasked with military operations in the Middle East, Egypt, and parts of South and Central Asia, announced that B-52 bombers conducted a routine “presence patrol” – in a move aimed to deter the Islamic Republic of Iran.

This, as Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has been conducting a series of military exercises, the latest of which began on Tuesday near the Makran shores on the Sea of Oman.

The drill follows a large-scale exercise involving new Iranian-made ballistic missiles and suicide drones, an Iranian naval exercise in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman, and an IRGC naval parade of 700 vessels in the Persian Gulf.