- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government, led by President Nouri al-Maliki, continues to align itself more closely with neighboring Iran.

According to U.S. defense officials, including one who recently returned from Iraq, Mr. Maliki recently shifted a large number of Sunni-dominated Iraqi troop units near Syria away from the border and replaced them with Shiite troops.

The reason: Iraq's government is preparing for the exit of Iranian paramilitary units from Syria that have been seeking to prop up President Bashar Assad’s regime. Beset by a growing number of high-level defections, the Assad regime is said to be on its last legs.

The Iraqi units near Syria are expected to form a secure corridor into the southern part of Iraq and into Iran for the retreating Iranian troops.

Intelligence reports from the region indicate that members of the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s regime also are fleeing Syria and returning to Iraq, raising new fears of anti-government terrorist attacks in Iraq.

Mr. Maliki in July announced that Iraqis in Syria could return to Iraq, including Baathists but excluded those involved in crimes.

According to reports from the region, Iraqi intelligence has been checking the passports of those arriving from Syria at Baghdad International Airport against a list of 300 people wanted by the government.

Additionally, in Kirkuk, police on July 24 arrested an al Qaeda terrorist who had entered Iraq from Syria. And five former Saddam regime leaders entered Iraq from Syria around the same time and were planning to finance suicide bombings in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, according to Iraqi press reports.

The increasing terrorist threat comes against the backdrop of a little-noticed campaign of targeted assassinations of middle-level government officials in Iraq.

A U.S. official said the Obama administration and the Pentagon have ignored the increasing threats in Iraq since the pullout of U.S. forces from the country in December. “I don’t think the Pentagon wants anything to do with Iraq anymore,” the official said.

An Iraqi Embassy official had no immediate comment.

N. Korea’s deceptive flood figures

North Korea’s communist regime recently issued inflated figures for rainfall and casualties from rains and flooding in order to obtain foreign aid, according to a Western diplomatic official.

An analysis of weather events since June in North Korea revealed that rainfall and flooding were less severe than that which occurred during floods in 2011 and 1995.

The North Koreans claimed severe damage. According to official state media: A total of 169 people died, 400 others went missing and more than 200,000 were left homeless in recent flooding.

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