Video - Kut Al-Zein / Um Al-Rasass Border Posts, Iraq - The Shatt Al-Arab is the place where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet, it also marks the border between Iraq and Iran. The banks of the Shatt Al-Arab have been witness to many things throughout the history of Iraq. It was a big battlefield during the Iraq-Iran War the first and second Gulf Wars, now the wars are over and the waterway has become a center of criminal gangs and smuggling.
Several gangs work in smuggling cars, weapons, and drugs. The Iranian Government itself has also been accused of smuggling weapons into Iraq. Alarmingly, smugglers have even begun engaging in child-trafficking, although the border with Iran has not been cited as a specifically high area for this. Since being reconstituted after the occupation of Iraq, the Iraqi Police and National Guard have been in a constant battle to stop smugglers from bringing illicit goods into Iraq. These goods are being smuggled from Iran, Pakistan, India, and other remote countries. Smugglers are also known to be involved in financing insurgents cells in Iraq.
The Border Guards are equipped with boats, helicopters, and other vehicles to stop smugglers, but one of the biggest problems those tasked with securing the border face are the much more advanced boats, weaponry and other vehicles possessed by the smugglers they’re trying to detain and eliminate.
The most valuable product being smuggled or stolen is oil. The smugglers use large boats to smuggle oil smuggle out of Iraq and the Iraqi Border Guard are trying their best to stop those particular boats from leaving Iraqi waters, but usually these boats are not only highly advanced it is also believed that many of the gangs and militias involved in smuggling operations have contacts with corrupt officials in the Iraqi government or security forces.
Although these issues are all enough to create concern about the capabilities of Iraq’s border security, there are still others recently surfacing. It has recently come to light that some of the United States’ “Concerned Local Citizens” or “Al-Sahwa (Awakening)” may have been involved in smuggling operations in the past. Also recently, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was quoted as saying that the Algiers Accord which includes agreement on the demarcation of the Iran-Iraq border along the Shatt Al-Arab needs to be renegotiated. An aid later claimed that the President had been misquoted and he did not “repudiate” the treaty.
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