Iraqi armed forces are stepping up their presence along the border with Syria and implementing strict measures in order to prevent "breaches by criminal groups", Iraqi security officials said.
The measures began on Monday (July 30th), officials said, adding that the military increased deployments of security personnel and combat forces, as well as tanks, armoured vehicles and heavy artillery along the border.
"There is a [security] vacuum along the Syrian side of the border between the two countries," said Brig. Gen. Ali al-Azzawi from the border guard forces command. This and "the deteriorating security situation required deploying Iraqi forces to close the security gaps as a precaution against breaches by criminal groups that may try to infiltrate, or escape from, Iraqi territory", he told Mawtani.
Al-Azzawi said the measures include deploying modern Iraqi tanks and armoured vehicles to repel "any terrorist attack by using deadly force to safeguard the country's security and sovereignty".
"The army also ordered artillery units to be placed along the border to support land forces in the event of a security breach," he said, "with enhanced security presence at watch towers, observation posts and patrols combing border areas, especially in nearby villages and agricultural areas."
According to Lt. Col. Muhanad al-Hadithy, from the 4th Emergency Battalion in Anbar, the measures are unprecedented.
"The security measures implemented on the Iraqi-Syrian border are the first of their kind in terms of the size of the force used, and [the fact] an Iraqi division of tanks and armoured vehicles [was deployed] in connection with the security tension in Syria," he said.
Al-Hadithy said the various security commands are directly supervising the operations, drawing upon previously drafted plans and instructions to deal with such situations.
Security personnel and Iraqi tribesmen living in the border regions are co-operating on a large scale "to maintain security and stability and to deal with any potential terrorist breaches", he added.
"A number of security patrols were deployed in areas opposite Syrian border posts vacated by the Syrian army. Also, bodies of water were combed and a fourth security fence of barbed wire was added along the border strip, so there are now three security barriers: a fence, a trench and two lines of barbed wire," al-Hadithy said.
Lt. Col. Saleh al-Jumaily, from the army's 2nd Rapid Intervention Battalion, told Mawtani, "All procedures are carried out in accordance with confidential security orders swiftly implemented in the event of a threat to the country."
He said that the "Iraqi forces deployed along the border try not to disturb or scare residents, as they were deployed to protect [residents] and help Syrian refugees and Iraqi citizens as they cross into Iraqi territory," al-Jumaily said.