For several months, the U.S. government has been urging the Iraqi government to stop Iran from supplying arms to the Syrian regime through commercial flights over Iraqi airspace, but a larger amount of supplies is now crossing Iraq via convoys on the ground, Iraq’s exiled Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi told The Cable.
Hashimi has been living in Turkey following his indictment and subsequent conviction in absentia by Iraqi government courts that he says are working with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The Central Criminal Court of Iraq sentenced him to death last month for allegedly participating in acts of terrorism against his own political opponents,, charges widely seen as political in nature.
But Hashimi is still technically the vice president and he is fighting for what he calls a “fair trial.” He argues that Maliki has hijacked the Iraqi political system and become beholden to Iranian interests, which include supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Hashimi said he has evidence and reports from politicians, from officers in the Interior Ministry, and from Iraqi intelligence officials, all pointing to a growing and active ground transport route from Iran to Syria. The route crosses through the Zarbatia checkpoint on the Iran-Iraq border, west of the Iranian town of Mehran, flows through the city of Karbala, and crosses over to Syria via the al-Qaim border crossing, he said.
“The transit is not only aerial using Iraqi airspace, but the ground transit is becoming a phenomenon. Munitions, heavy arms, and even militias are passing checkpoints without any sort of obstruction,” Hashimi said in a telephone interview. “I am very afraid the U.S. and the international community is only focused on the aerial transit and leaving behind the ground transit. Everything should be checked now.”
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