Iraqi security leaders and analysts say the increased rate of militants from Syria attempting to infiltrate Iraq is evidence that al-Qaeda is trying to exploit Syria's ongoing political crisis.
Officials say the crisis has emboldened militants to exploit the security flaws along the Syrian side of the border.
"Syria is not making enough effort to control its borders with Iraq, especially in the desert areas close to the Iraqi cities of al-Qaem and Rummana in western Anbar and Rabiea in western Ninawa province," said Iraqi national security advisor Falih al-Fayyadh.
Al-Fayyadh told Mawtani that militants attempt to infiltrate Iraq usually in groups of four to eight individuals.
During January and February of this year, border guards detained 42 infiltrators and forced around 50 more back into Syrian territory after clashes with Iraqi forces, according to al-Fayyadh.
Some of the detainees were of Arab nationalities – from Yemen, Syria, Tunisia, Algeria and Jordan -- and some were wanted by police in their own countries for belonging to al-Qaeda, he said.
Al-Fayyadh attributed the increase in infiltration attempts to al-Qaeda in Iraq losing the ability to recruit more members and fund its terrorist operations.
"The security force's success in drying up al-Qaeda's financial resources, in addition to Iraqis refraining from donating funds to them -- whether as zakat or money extorted by al-Qaeda by force -- in addition to the severe lack of field commanders who are usually of Arab nationalities, were all factors that led the organisation's decision to bring in gunmen from outside Iraq," he said.
"All indications point to the fact that al-Qaeda is trying to start a new battle in Iraq by throwing its external fighting capability into the arena to undermine the improving security situation in Iraq," said political analyst Saad al-Hadithi.
"By bringing in more gunmen to fight in Iraq, al-Qaeda is trying to make the international efforts aimed at rebuilding Iraq a failure, particularly with the approaching Arab summit conference, the entry of international companies, and the re-opening of foreign embassies in Baghdad."
Al-Hadithi said the battle that al-Qaeda is trying to wage will not succeed because of three factors.
"Al-Qaeda is badly in need of money […] needs huge quantities of weapons because Iraqi forces have seized those weapons and ammunition in various security campaigns, and al-Qaeda's failure to recruit Iraqi youths who are now looking forward to a better future, which is why it sought assistance from the neighbouring countries," he said.
On February 22nd, Iraqi forces discovered three tunnels of various lengths that extended into Iraq near the border towns of al-Qaem and Rummana, according to deputy commander of the border guards forces, Maj. Gen. Hashim Jawad al-Iqaby.
Infiltrators "sought to enter Iraq through those tunnels because they could not pass through the border crossing points, since they are wanted by the Iraqi judiciary. Therefore they use the border territory between the two countries to cross every then and now," al-Iqabi said.
"But our intensified measures will prevent that," he said.
On February 27th, Iraq announced the launch of a new security plan in co-ordination with the Ministry of Defence and the Iraqi National Intelligence Service to control the international borders with neighbouring countries.
The announcement was made after Iraq obtained information that al-Qaeda was seeking to import suicide bombers, gunmen, funds, and weapons from outside the country.
"Iraqi security forces of both the army and police are at their utmost readiness to confront any infiltration attempt," Maj. Gen. Hadi Kassar, commander of the Anbar police, told Mawtani. "We have other plans and measures that are sufficient to foil the attempts by infiltrators who are trying to push the country back to square one."
"There is also considerable co-operation by the tribesmen who live near the border areas to spot any fighter trying to infiltrate," he said.