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In a reflection of how intertwined the Syria and Iraq conflicts have become, thousands of Shiite Iraqi militiamen helping President Bashar Assad crush the Sunni-led uprising against him are returning home, putting a strain on the overstretched Syrian military as it struggles to retain territory recaptured in recent months from rebels. The borders between the two countries are being largely ignored, with fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant said to be crossing freely from one side to the other, transporting weapons, equipment and cash in a development that has potential to shift the balance of power in a largely stalemated battle.



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