Violence lessens in Iraq as fighters shift to Syria
The departure of al Qaeda-affiliated fighters from Iraq to join the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad in Syria has had one benefit, Iraqi officials say: Violence has dropped in Iraq, in some areas by as much as 50 percent in just a few months.
Iraqi officials declined to provide precise figures for the drop-off or to estimate how many such fighters have left the country for Syria. But the impact of the departure, they said, has been especially apparent in Ninewah province, which borders Syria and has long been the scene of some of Iraq’s most violent bombings and assassinations.
Last Thursday, James R. Clapper, the Obama administration’s director of national intelligence, told Congress that the United States thought these al Qaeda-affiliated fighters were responsible for the most spectacular rebel attacks on Syrian military forces in recent months, including suicide bombings in Damascus in December and January and two attacks earlier this month in Aleppo. The four attacks, which targeted Syrian military or intelligence facilities, killed at least 70 people.
Iskander Witwit, the deputy chairman of Parliament’s security committee, described the incoming fighters as “preoccupied with their new jihad in Syria.”
“The events in Syria have direct bearing on security in Iraq, no one can deny that,” said Abdulraheem al Shammary, the chairman of the security committee in Mosul. “However, we cannot say that violence has stopped because al Qaeda fighters have left Iraq and gone to Syria. Violence has not stopped; it has dropped off.”