U.S. Forces Try To Stop Arms Traffic On Iraq-Iran Border

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
September 30, 2008

Special Report With Brit Hume (FNC), 6:00 PM
BRIT HUME: American troops have had their hands filled with plenty of issues in Iraq, but as sectarian violence decreases, U.S. forces are now taking on a new challenge: the porous border between Iraq and Iran.
Reporter Anita McNaught explains the complicated relationship and dangerous conditions surrounding those neighbors.
ANITA MCNAUGHT: The forts along the Iran-Iraq border have witnessed centuries of tension and traffic. The seemingly empty desert of eastern Diyala is believed to be the busiest smuggling area in all Iraq. Now, the U.S. military has decided to intervene. The reason: weapons and militia fighters coming in from across Iran are perpetuating violence in Iraq. The smugglers know their terrain intimately, so soldiers of Fox Troop Border Patrol have parked their armored vehicles and hit the desert tracks to try to stop the flow from traffickers.
SGT. KIM BRADSHAW [Fox Troop Border Patrol]: They’re using the trails in these dry riverbeds and they’re using those to maneuver the large quantities of items through this area and to a central area of Iraq into Baghdad, Baqubah, and then even other places up north.
MCNAUGHT: These tracks all run to illegal crossing points on the Iran border. No one here is a tourist. These Iraqis checked out clean, but previous busts and weapons caches have produced rockets, mortars, plastic explosives and all manner of other equipment used by insurgents. The surprise for U.S. military working here is that these weapons don’t just go to Iran’s Shi’a militia allies in Iraq, the Jaish al Mahdi.
LT. MICHAEL TEEL [Fox Troop Executive Officer]: Iran is helping al Qaeda. They are helping al Qaeda and Jaish al Mahdi. It’s a mix. They’re indiscriminate on who as far as who they’re going to assist in crossing these ammunitions across the border. For them, it’s all about disruption.
MCNAUGHT: The Sunni villages of the Nida (ph) tribal area next to the border are an al Qaeda haven. The villagers fought Iran for decades. But they resent America just as much, so they’re happy to traffic Iranian-sourced weapons. In this drought-afflicted rural area, it’s almost the only income.
But further north, there is oil. The desperately poor Iraqi town of Naft Khana quite literally has rivers of it, while just the other side of the border, the Iranians have built this facility drilling, locals tell us, at an angle into the Iraqi fields. The local Kurdish leader is livid. “Why is the Iraqi government doing nothing about this,” he asks. At the official border crossing at Khanaqin, Iranian guards watch us warily.
The growth industry is religious tourism. These Iranian pilgrims have come to make the 100-mile trip to the Iraqi holy city of Karbala. If you politics to one side, we have a very old and good relationship with Iraq, this pilgrim Mehdi Shah Habani told me. But the few Iraqis making the trip the other way are either seeing family, or crossing the border illegally to train as militia fighters.
America’s ability to influence events here will pass. Iran will remain Iraq’s neighbor forever. The challenge for Iraq is how to work that relationship so that they get a better deal out of it than they have at the moment.
On the Iranian border, eastern Iraq, Anita McNaught, Fox News.