For a long time Syria has been struggling to support massive numbers of Iraqi Sunni Arab refugees, fleeing from the US occupation and the subsequent civil war. Now, with a civil war breaking out in neighboring Syria, the flow is going the other way.
Iraq’s Dahuk Province has announced that it has opened a second refugee camp to deal with a growing number of people from Syrian Kurdistan. The camp’s conditions are harsh and the refugees say they don’t feel very welcome.
While refugees are pouring out of Syria, a number of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) fighters have poured in. Iraq is also seen as a likely choice for smuggling weapons into the nation, but Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s office says that in a phone call with Vice President Joe Biden he rejected the idea, saying Iraq will increase border security to prevent arms from flowing into Syria.
The interest in arms coming by way of Iraq, as opposed to Turkey, comes as the last major rebel stronghold in the far north, Idlib, has confirmed to have fallen to Syrian troops. There are also reports that the military is mining the border with Turkey to prevent the constant cross-over from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), whose leadership is based in Turkey. This has put the rebels, already reeling from a lack of funding and weaponry, even further on their heels, but is liable to encourage Western nations to engage in even more desperate measures to arm them.