Syrian rebel forces attacked two Iraqi military positions at the southern tip of their common border Sunday, June 9. They failed to beat the Iraqi troops back although a number of Iraqi officers and soldiers were killed. Shooting incidents flared during the day near the Al-Waleed Syrian-Iraqi crossing, but the Iraqi forces held fast.
This was their first engagement with Syrian rebels in the 28-month Syrian civil war — but unlikely to be the last.
The Syrian Sunni rebels were anxious to break through the Iraqi lines which were blocking their access to supplies of weapons and fighters sent over by Sunni militias in the Western Iraqi Anbar region. The failure of the rebels’ first assault set back their bid to loosen the grip of loyalist Syrian troops on this strategic border crossing.
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that while all eyes have been drawn in recent days to Hizballah’s proactive military involvement in Assad’s war, the Iraqi role has been under-reported an treated as scattered and sporadic military actions, whereas in fact, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has even outdone Hassan Nasrallah in the generosity of his assistance for propping Assad up.
We have learned that he has advanced unlimited Iraqi credit for his war chest,, placing Iraq’s multibillion-dollar oil revenues at his disposal. US, British and French importers may not realize they are contributing to Assad’s war effort against the rebels with their purchases.
A Western intelligence source told DEBKAfile that al-Maliki is even footing the bill for Syrian government’s imports, from flour to Russian weapons systems and arms bought on the international market for the Syrian army and Hizballah. Baghdad is also covering Syria’s consumption of petroleum, benzene, fuel distillates and oils for the Syrian army’s logistical systems.
And as we reported in the last DEBKA Weekly, the Iraqi prime minister has detached 20,000 troops for the mission of sealing the Syrian border against the entry of rebel reinforcements and assistance originating in the Persian Gulf and from Iraqi Sunni militias. The Syrian rebel attacks Sunday battered the Iraqi lines ranged there but failed to force any gaps.
Assad is therefore furnished with ample funds and soldiers by Iraq, fighting men by HIzballah, new and replenished weapons by Russia and Iran and aircraft, tanks and artillery for Syria’s own stores.
With hefty financial, intelligence and military aid from four allies, Bashar Assad is better equipped than ever before to rout an opposition that is divided and starved of assistance, arms and support.