Monday, September 27, 2004

Peeing in the ocean

The situation in Iraq has been compared to repairing an airplane -- in flight -- under enemy fire. This article by Steve Negus in London's Financial Times paints a dreary picture of troublemakers streaming into Iraq from Syria. With a two-thousand mile long, very porous border, Iraq is apparently as accessible to its neighbors as the US is to Mexicans. (Yeah, I know. There are a lot of illegal aliens. That's my point.) I don't know how long the border is between Syria and Iraq. I do know that lots of water can escape through a very small leak.

Only a two-foot embankment or a $2 bribe stand in the way of a Syrian Islamist wishing to wage jihad in Iraq.

The US military and the Iraqi interior ministry have pushed in recent months to seal Iraq's long western border against the infiltration of "foreign fighters" as part of an overall plan to beef up security before January elections.

But for now, US and Iraqi officials say, the border is virtually no obstacle at all.
Until earlier this month, travellers at this remote desert border crossing could enter Iraq without a visa. Now a visa is required - but Iraqi officials freely admit the requirement can easily be circumvented with a bribe.

Travellers mingle in an immigration hall before being called one by one to have their papers stamped. It is a chaotic environment in which money can easily change hands without anyone noticing.

Asked if his men are genuinely interested in stopping infiltration, one Iraqi customs official shrugs and says: "To be honest, no."

An infiltrator who wants to avoid even the minor inconvenience and expense of the official posts would have little trouble doing so, US officers say.

Further north, where the border straddles the towns and farmland of the Euphrates valley, local tribes with members in both Iraq and Syria engage in smuggling and will happily take fighters as well as contraband. In much of the open desert, meanwhile, the only obstacle from the Iraqi side is an earthen embankment, in places low enough to be driven across.

One US officer describes the border as a "thin crust" that can easily be penetrated. He says the border zone needs "depth" - which according to another observer means highway checkpoints and other surveillance on the Iraqi side, and forewarning from Syrian intelligence on the other.

It begs the question: Why don't the Iraqis turn them in?
I really don't want to suggest an answer.

1 comment:

Snave said...

Thanks for the kind comments, Hootsbuddy! I'm still trying to figure out how to list my other favorite blogs. After looking at yours, once I get it figured out, I will certainly list your site! Have you visited my friend J.Marquis of "Are We There Yet?" He has a great way with words, and his site is also fun. I enjoy Lizzy's site due to similar viewpoints and because I am also OCD! Heh... Again, thanks!!