Iraq neighbours undermining border fight -minister
Neighbouring countries' failure to check the flow of insurgents, weapons, drugs and other dangerous cargo into Iraq has made it close to impossible to secure Iraq's porous borders, a minister said, according to Reuters.
"This is a political problem more than a security problem," Deputy Interior Minister Ahmed Ali al-Khafaji said.
Of the six nations that that run along Iraq's more than 3,600 km-long (2,250 mile) border, Khafaji, who oversees Iraqi border forces, gave only Kuwait to the south good marks.
"The cooperation between Iraq and neighbouring nations in securing common borders is weak, with the exception of Kuwait," he told Reuters.
Iraq is doing what it can on its own, he said, building a 160-km (100-mile) ditch -- 3 meters deep and 3 meters across -- to stop people and vehicles crossing the vast, sparsely populated desert that joins western Anbar province to Syria.
Iraq has been struggling for years to improve border security in order to halt the flow of Sunni Islamist militants from Iraq's western neighbours such as Syria and Saudi Arabia and stem the entry of Shi'ite fighters and weaponry from Iran.
With backing from the United States, border forces have grown to around 42,000, but Khafaji said Iraq may need to almost double that as the violence unleashed by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion eases and commercial and passenger traffic with neighbouring nations picks up.
Iraq will also need to add almost 200 border stations to the 610 that dot its frontiers today.
But even border patrols and cargo scans have the potential to become politically charged issues as the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite Arab, struggles to find the right footing with largely Sunni Arab nations to the west, which have kept their distance since 2003, and majority Shi'ite Iran to the east, with whom Iraq fought a bloody war in the 1980s.