Not What the US Planned: Al-Qaeda Tears Down Syria-Iraq Border

Bulldozers Tearing Down Earthen Border

While most of the high profile coverage of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)’s latest gains came in the major cities it took over, one of the most telling aspects of what is happening in Iraq’s northwest and Syria’s northeast could be seen only at what passes for a border.

Syria and Iraq are largely divided by a berm, an earthen mound border that prevents vehicles from driving through in places other than the official crossings. The problem is neither Syria nor Iraq controls these areas anymore: on both sides it’s all AQI land.

AQI seems confident this isn’t just a temporary possession either, and so their bulldozers are hard at work, tearing through the berm and clearing some new dirt roads to connect their new state more efficiently.

That reflects the group’s ongoing effort to rebrand itself the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” which has designs on eventually taking most or all of both Iraq and Syria as one Salafist theocracy.

These days, that seems less like an idle threat and more like a reality, as ISILstan now seems to encompass much of Syria from the edge of Aleppo through Raqqa, and down into al-Bukamal, then spans Iraq’s Anbar and Nineveh Provinces, with the capital of Salaheddin Province, Tikrit, also falling today.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.