• It's a Long Way to the Border: Getting to the Iran-Iraq border was not easy this time for staff writer Scott Peterson, embedded with the US Army (see story). It required one helicopter ride with three stops, followed by two separate journeys by armored vehicle, finally finishing with a walk from the final US combat post – the quietest in all of Iraq – to the border point.
The last time Scott reached this border, he tried to cross it. That was just months after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Although he had a visa for Iran, the Iranian police apologized and turned him back, so he had to drive back to Baghdad and return the next day.
Why? "No Americans had crossed that border, perhaps for decades," says Scott. "So the Iranians had to mobilize a police fingerprint team from the next big city, which was well away from the border, and that took a day to organize."
Scott got across back then. But the scene could not be more different today. Pilgrims cross in large numbers, but now it is the uniformed American contractors who are doing the fingerprinting and taking photos and retina scans of most Iranian males who cross the border.
"Far more interesting for me was to see the US soldier 'tourists' who would walk up to the border gate, and take snapshots of each other with a background of the Iranian flag or portraits of Iranian leaders," says Scott. "This is supposedly a charter member of the Axis of Evil, but it is one of the quietest places in Iraq – and soldiers saw no need to wear body armor there."
– Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor