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Iraqi border eyes Iran influence as US plans Syria pullout

After the retaking of IS-held territory across the border and the US announcement it would pull its troops out of Syria, Iraq’s western Anbar is grappling with the prospect of increased Iranian influence amid joblessness, a lack of electricity and reports of cross-border drug smuggling.

QAIM, Iraq — As minor pockets of Islamic State (IS) territory in eastern Syria are treated as of little consequence following the entrance of US-backed fighters into the long-besieged Hejin region, Iraq’s western Anbar province is facing up to emboldened pro-Iran armed groups nearby.

The surprise announcement Dec. 19 that the United States plans to pull its roughly 2,000 troops out of eastern Syria strongly suggests that the already heavy influence of Iran-backed armed groups near the border will rise.

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