Support: September 6, 2005

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The United States is, literally, fortifying Iraqs borders. Never as tightly guarded as the frontiers in the classic Soviet style police state, Saddams guards covered the main roads pretty well. But most of the 3,600 kilometers of land borders were covered by little forts, which were usually 25-30 kilometers apart. About three dozen border guards manned each fort. In some areas, there are additional outposts every four kilometers. Most of these forts have fallen into disrepair, or been destroyed. The American plan is a series of 300 fortified bases or forts, and a force of 32,000 new border guard troops. At the moment, there are only 12,000 people in the border force, and only about half the forts and bases are completed, or under construction.

Many of the border bases will, literally, be concrete forts, with four turrets and metal doors and gates. Normally, each fort holds a shift of two or three dozen border guards (some of whom are always out on patrol or manning a road block.) Firing slits are built into the roof parapets. Each of the four turrets has three firing ports as well. Each fort also have two generators, and air conditioners for some of the rooms. Supplies of fuel, food and water are kept on hand, to enable the fort to withstand a siege of several days. 

Many of the border guards are currently living in tents, or half-ruined forts from the Saddam era. Smugglers and terrorists frequently take shots at the border guard camps, with rifles and mortars. So the border guards are eager to get into their new forts. The exact dimensions of the forts varies a bit, but most are 40x40 feet, with fifteen foot high walls and 25 foot high towers. The walls are thick enough to stop heavy machine-gun bullets and RPGs. The Americans are urging the Iraqis to equip all the forts with sensors, which would make it possible to really seal off the border. The Iraqis, including the border guards, may not want to do this. Corruption among the border guards is an old tradition, with bribes by smugglers accounting for a large fraction of the border guards pay.

Iraqs land borders total 3,631 kilometers (Iran 1,458, Jordan 181, Kuwait 242, Saudi Arabia 814, Syria 605, and Turkey 331.) Iran and Syria are the ones that are getting forts first, because these are experiencing the most problems with illegal crossings. 

 


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