Iraq reopens al-Qaim border crossing with Syria
On Tuesday, Iraq announced the reopening of its border with Syria in order to allow limited entry to fleeing refugees at the al-Qaim border crossing, an area that has seen increasing levels of spillover in recent weeks. Up to 100 Syrian refugees will be allowed entrance into Iraq per day, though men under the age of 50 will be turned away as a security precaution. The border crossing between al-Qaim and the neighboring Syrian town of Abu Kamal had been closed since August 15th as opposition forces battled for control of Abu Kamal. The reopening should help to alleviate tension between Malikis government and the Sunni tribes of Anbar, many of whom have family on the Syrian side of the border.
Meanwhile, Maliki continues to maintain a publicly neutral stance on the crisis, restating support of reform in Syria while refusing to call for the removal of President al-Assad. Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who was sentenced to death in absentee by an Iraqi court last week, condemned Iraqi facilitation of Iranian support to the Syrian army, stating that Iraq is becoming an Iranian corridor to support the autocratic regime of Bashar al-Assad and killing innocent people.
For an analysis of the death sentence pronounced against Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi and its implications for democracy in Iraqi, see Stephen Wickens political update, The Hashemi Verdict and the Health of Democracy in Iraq.