Iraq tightens security at Syria border to stop arms flow

By REUTERS
February 18, 2012 17:36

 
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BAGHDAD - Iraq said on Saturday it had reinforced security along its Syrian border to prevent arms smuggling, after reports fighters and weapons were crossing into Syria where President Bashar Assad has been facing an increasingly armed revolt.

The Shi'ite-led Iraqi government is worried the unrest in Syria, now nearly a year old, could spill across the porous 600 km frontier and upset its own fragile sectarian balance.

Iraq's Shi'ites fear a toppling of Assad, himself from a minority Shi'ite sect, could bring hardline Sunnis to power, a shift which could threaten Iraqi Shi'ites' newly-acquired dominance since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, told the Senate Armed Services Committee this week that al-Qaida in Iraq, which has hardline Sunni Islamist convictions, may have been behind bombings in Damascus and Syria's second city, Aleppo.

The allegation came as Iraqi officials and arms dealers reported an influx of weapons and Sunni Muslim insurgents into Syria. Al-Qaida's leader Ayman al Zawahri has backed the revolt against Assad, in which more than 5,000 people have been killed, according to the United Nations.

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