International Interests Line Up To Take Control Of Iraq-Syria Border
As the fight against the extremist group known as the Islamic State continues to succeed, albeit at a slower pace than hoped for, the Iraqi government is starting to consider what to do about the country’s borders with Syria.
To the west of Mosul, for example, the borders have been porous, allowing fighters from the extremist group to come and go between the Iraqi city of Mosul and the Islamic State, or IS, group’s base in Syria, the city of Raqqa.
As the IS group is pushed out of the eastern side of Mosul this week, questions remain as to what will happen to IS fighters on the western side of the city; many believe they will leave on roads that lead toward the Syrian border.
Assuming the remaining fighters from the extremist group eventually flee the city and head toward Raqqa, and if the Syrian-Iraq border is not secured somehow, then it is clear that the city of Mosul and the surrounding areas can never be completely safe.
The main problem is: Who will do the securing?
The Shiite Muslim militias, formerly volunteers but recently classified as a legitimate force by the Iraqi government, fighting the IS group are developing plans to guard this border. Many of these militias receive support, in terms of finances and training, from the Iranian government.
Meanwhile the US has also been encouraging Sunni Muslim tribes in the area to launch operations in the border areas too, underscoring the military importance of the area.
But of course, the border area also has a political significance. It is highly likely that Iran would like a land corridor connecting it to long-time allies in Syria. It is also highly likely that the US and some Iraqis would like to prevent this. Each country will use its allies in Iraq to try and get what it wants.