By Fehim Tastekin for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

While Turkey was eagerly anticipating a new government in Baghdad to sort out many problems with Iraq, a last minute decision by the outgoing prime minister has added a fresh item to the list of ongoing disagreements between the two countries.

Haider al-Abadi unexpectedly signed a decree to set up three new checkpoints in government-controlled areas in northern Iraq that will effectively slash Turkey’s trade with it.

The trucks that enter the country normally pass through the sole border crossing that is controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and will now also have to pass at least one of these additional checkpoints.

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This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

By Kamal al-Ayash.

As Iraq Sanctions Iran Trade, Saudi Arabia Boosts Border Crossing

Opening the Arar border crossing on Iraq’s border with Saudi Arabia could help locals economically. But analysts say it’s also about international influence.

“Work is underway to re-open Arar for commercial purposes before the upcoming Haj season in a manner that benefits both Iraq and Saudi Arabia,” said Abdul Aziz al-Shammari, the Saudi ambassador to Iraq. In a televised interview announcing that the border crossing is to be permanently opened, he said that the Iraqi and Saudi sides have agreed on everything required for the reopening of the crossing for commercial purposes.

This is not the first time that Saudi Arabia announced its approval for the reopening of the border crossing, and with every such announcement voices supporting normal relations with Saudi Arabia are heard. Local residents also say the border crossing opening will boost economic recovery in the area.

However, the issue of ownership of the border crossing remains a significant stumbling block: It is located within the borders of the Nukhayb district, approximately 300 kilometres southwest of Ramadi, which is in the Anbar province .

The Nukhayb district was created in 1960 and remained part of Anbar province’s Rutba district until 1978 when it was annexed to Karbala for 14 months. It was returned to the Anbar province in 1979 as a result of a crisis between the local population of the Nukhayb district and Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr, a former President of Iraq, after which it became a separate district in 2016, following a vote by Anbar provincial council members.

The Arar crossing point is located on the Iraqi-Saudi border, 97 kilometres southwest of the Nukhayb district, and since 2003 has officially only opened during the pilgrimage season so that Iraqi pilgrims can travel to the holy site of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The border crossing has two routes; the first passes through the Karbala province and the second passes through the Anbar province.

The local government in the Anbar province highlights the success of its security and service operations every pilgrimage season, while at the same time stressing that this is done without financial allocations to the border crossing. It is also a way of confirming its ownership of the Nukhayb district and the Arar border crossing.

Taha Abdul Ghani, a member of the Anbar provincial council, told NIQASH that “no province other than Anbar has the right to administrate the Arar border crossing, as all documents prove that the Nukhayb district and Arar border crossing fall within the administrative borders of the Anbar province. Any other claim is a slander and a violation of Anbar’s rights.”

“Anbar province has administrated the Nukhayb sub district for 15 years. It allocated huge amounts of money to services and projects in the Nukhayb district in support of all sectors, as well as for logistical services to ensure the success of security plans and the travel of pilgrims through the Arar border crossing.”

In addition to its importance for commercial and tourism purposes, the Saudi-Iraqi border crossing is significant for various local and international political parties for political and security reasons. Observers and experts say that any developments related to the Nukhayb district tend to increase tensions and they stress that economic issues are not the only reasons.

“Controlling the Nukhayb district and the Arar border crossing from the Iraqi side has one specific reason,” retired military man, Mohammed Kartan explains. “Anbar wants to maintain the border crossing with its Sunni environment, specifically the Gulf, and Karbala and Najaf want to impose their control and influence to isolate Sunni elements from their support in the Gulf.

“Whoever controls the Jdaidet Arar border crossing and the Nukhayb district controls important transportation routes between Iraq and Syria that were created when the Islamic State group occupied most of the cities of the Anbar province. These routes were created in an attempt to find alternative ways to bring financial and logistical support to Syria without having to pass through extremist-occupied areas.”

The reopening of the border crossing could serve as an important outlet for Iraqi and Saudi trade, but it is a painful economic blow to Iranian trade, which heavily and directly depends on the Iraqi market.

Kareem al-Nouri, a leader of the popular crowd forces, told NIQASH that “if we assume good intentions on the part of Saudi Arabia, the decision to resume business permanently at the Arar border crossing is a good and useful decision which restores relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. However, we believe that the decision is of a political nature and its timing is not appropriate, especially with the US sanctions on Iran.”

“The opening of the border crossing, which is located in a sensitive and important city that is still categorised as a disputed area, could trigger a real crisis that may evolve into a conflict,” al-Nouri said. “Announcing the opening of the border crossing at this time is not a popular decision and it should be reconsidered.”

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Iraqi government has started to seal off the frontier between itself and Syria to try to stop cross-border attacks by ISIL fighters.

Only 20 kilometres of the 600 km fence have been completed since June.

Al Jazeera‘s Imran Khan reports from Baghdad:

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

By Kamal al-Ayash.

Despite Doubts About Efficacy, Anbar Builds Border Fence To Keep Extremists Out

Iraq is attempting to secure its porous border with Syria. A trial security fence is being built. But there are many doubts about its ability to keep the Islamic State group out.

In an attempt to maintain security inside the country, and to prevent extremists from so easily crossing the long, porous border between Iraq and Syria, the Iraqi government is going to trial a security fence in Anbar. It will be 20 kilometres long and located in the Al Qaim area, west of Baghdad and right on the Syrian border.

The fence will consist of three different barriers: A six-meter-wide trench that is also three meters deep, barbed wire and then a dirt road on top of a three-meter high mound. There will also be observation towers along the route, equipped with surveillance cameras.

It sounds like a nice idea. But it won’t do anything, locals say.

“These measures are a waste of time, effort and money,” says Abdul Rahman Yassin, a retired military officer who lives in Ramadi, one of Anbar’s larger cities. “Barriers made of concrete or soil need to be accompanied by sophisticated technology. We also need better intelligence, that is aimed at countering any efforts to break through the barriers,” he argues.

The security forces that have fought extremist groups in this area since 2003 are well aware that their enemy has some advanced technology too, Yassin says. “If we deal with the enemy with traditional and old fashioned methods, then that is simply a betrayal of the security forces,” he concludes.

But it’s better than doing nothing, local officials counter. Right now, extremists and others are simply using unpatrolled desert roads as a back door into Iraq.

“There is no doubt that danger enters Iraq from beyond the border, with the support of sleeper cells inside the country,” says Imad al-Dulaimi, the mayor of Rutba, a town about 450 kilometres west of Baghdad near the Syrian border. “Now that the Islamic State group have been pushed out of Iraq, it is important to pay attention to the border areas – especially those with Syria – which still pose a  threat.”

Building a fence like this is a pretty simple solution to a complex problem, al-Dulaimi conceded. “But it is also an attempt to confound the enemy and to reduce his ability to deploy in this area, especially in Anbar.”

The first trial of the fence will probably mostly benefit the city of Al Qaim and the mayor there, Ahmed al-Mahalawi, says that although the security fence is a little late and little primitive, it does “contribute to the protection of the border”.

The local security forces, who are involved in building the 20-kilometre stretch of fence alongside engineers, are a little more optimistic.

Anwar Hamid Nayef, the spokesperson for the border guards in the area, says everyone is looking forward to proving this trial version of the border fence a success.

Eventually the fence could stretch the whole way along the border. “The feasibility and effectiveness of this project will first be assessed and then the rest will be built with the approval of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence and the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State group,” he told NIQASH. Adding that the estimated cost of the whole fence would be up to IQD4 billion (around US$3.3 million).

Ordinary residents in the area remain divided about the plan. Some think that it’s a good idea but wonder if it will actually be completed, or abandoned like so many other development projects in Iraq.

Saadi Abdul Ghafoor, a 46-year-old farmer whose land is adjacent to the banks of the Euphrates, says he was pleased when he saw the construction machinery arrive. Even though the new fence would take up some of his land, he was happy about it.

“But when I saw the machines digging the trenches and pulling the barbed wire, I realised that this was not going to bring anything new,” he told NIQASH. There’s been a similar attempt to fence the border before and Ghafoor says the new one is simply being built in the same place as the old one, which collapsed and eroded. He’s not sure the new fence will do much better than its predecessor.

By John Lee.

Iraq and Syria are said to be considering the possibility of reopening their border for the first time in several years.

Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister Walid al-Moallem sent a letter to his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jaafari hoping to increase efforts to reopen the border crossing connectinga the Syrian city of Albukamal and the Iraqi city of Al-Qa’im [Qaim].

(Source: AINA)

The General Commission for Border Crossings in coordination with the National Investment Commission (NIC) has announced the investment opportunities of establishing high-standards border crossings in the following points:

  • Al- Waleed crossing point
  • Rabeaa crossing point
  • AL- Muntheriyah crossing point
  • Mandeli crossing point
  • Traibeel crossing point
  • Al- Qaem crossing point

According to the following requirements:

  • A VIP building consists of (Lobby, Meetings Hall, Restaurant, Services, Medical care centers, Bedroom)
  • Testing labs service: establishing developed laboratories for all specialized departments operating in the crossing point providing that they must be subject to sectoral sides supervision>
  • Testing, Searching and Control labs
  • Radiological testing labs
  • Health lab
  • IT and Internet Services: establishing, equipping and managing an IT and Internet center under the supervision of the responsible sectoral side.
  • Balanced Scaling Service: establishing, equipping and managing the balanced scales in the crossing point under the supervision of the responsible sectoral side.
  • Testing machines Service: establishing, equipping, managing and maintaining the testing Sonar machines, persons and luggage testing machines and the radiological testing machines after obtaining the sectoral side approval and supervision.
  • Services offices: establishing, equipping and operating services office ready to undertake the responsibility of providing the services of charging, discharging, cleaning and rehabilitating the crossing point buildings (sanitary works, Décor, power supply, water supply maintenance, and telecommunications)

Motel and Hotel Services: establishing, equipping and managing a motel to provide its services to the visiting passengers.

  • Restaurants and Booths: establishing, equipping and managing restaurants and booths within the crossing point that can provide regular meals, snacks and soft drinks.
  • Testing Services: (K9) establishing, equipping and managing a testing service (K9) in the crossing points under the supervision of the sectoral side and includes testing explosives and drugs.
  • Storing Services: establishing, equipping and managing cooled and non- cooled stores for all specialized departments in the crossing point (Food and equipments, Agricultural quarantine, veterinary quarantine, and medical quarantine).
  • Shaded waiting areas: Establishing parking areas for vehicles, buses and trucks according to the international standards.
  • Fuel stations service: establishing, equipping and managing a fuel station within the crossing point
  • Rest houses Service: establishing, equipping and managing rest houses within the crossing point.
  • Water Desalination Station: establishing, equipping and maintaining water desalination stations within the crossing point.
  • Power and Water Supply Services: the investing side shall be in charge of establishing power generation stations and water supply stations.
  • Control System: establishing, equipping and maintaining a control system to be provided with the latest cameras and surveillance devices from the latest international sources.
  • The point entrances: establishing, equipping and maintaining 4 entrances, 2 in the Iraqi side and 2 in the other side.
  • Electrical Gates: establishing, equipping and maintaining developed electrical gates provided with Sonar machines, balanced scales and biometric reading machine.
  • The crossing point buildings: establishing, equipping and furnishing special buildings for the crossing point departments and other depts. operating in the point area in addition to establishing halls for sleep.
  • Mosque: establishing, equipping and furnishing a mosque with modern specifications.

Investors willing to invest in the aforementioned investment opportunities are required to submit a detailed offer with the feasablity study at the headquarter of the National investment Commission or the headquarter of the Crossing Points commission, knowing that the closing date is 31.01.2018.

For any further information please call Colonel Khaled Hasoon Jabur – Head of the Contracts Section:



(Source: National investment Commission)

Iran’s two border crossings with Iraqi Kurdistan region have resumed their operations following an announcement by the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), the director general of the Interior Ministry’s border affairs department said.

Shahriar Heidari said that according to the interior minister, the Parviz Khan border crossing in Iran’s Kermanshah province and the Haj Omran (Tamarchin) border crossing in Iran’s West Azerbaijan reopened on Tuesday.

He said the reopening of the borders came after an announcement by the SNSC and the resumption of activities of diplomatic and security organizations in the districts.

Iran shut its common frontier with the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan Region at the request of Baghdad after the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held a referendum to secede from the Arab country in September.

People in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq voted for independence on September 25 in a controversial referendum, amid rising tensions and international opposition.

The referendum set off a chain of events, culminating in a military confrontation between Erbil and Baghdad.

Iraqi government forces launched a major operation in Kirkuk on October 16 and took control of its oil fields and a strategic military base without any armed clashes.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By Mahmut Bozarslan for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Tensions were already high last week between Iraq’s central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil. The stress spiked Oct. 31 near the Iraq-Turkey border when sirens began wailing and a military convoy escorted by tanks was seen moving toward the border. People feared Turkey’s army was entering Iraq.

The convoy turned out to be a mixed Iraqi-Turkish one. Iraqis who had come to Turkey to participate in exercises were on their way home.

After the KRG held an independence referendum Sept. 25 and Baghdad responded Oct. 15 by sending in troops to retake disputed territory and squelch any talk of secession, many people wondered what would happen on the Turkey-Iraq border.

Habur crossing (pictured), known as Ibrahim Khalil border gate on the Kurdish side, is the sole crossing between the two countries. After taking over Kirkuk, Baghdad then decided it wanted control of the crossing. Iraqi soldiers who had flown to Turkey for the exercises were now going back by road for the first time in 26 years.

When the Iraqi army had abandoned that crossing in 1991, nobody had cell phones to report it. It took the world many days to learn that the Iraqis had handed over northern Iraq to the Kurds. But as Iraqi soldiers recently approached the border crossing, the entire world knew about it.

Some Turkish media ran false headlines saying the crossing had been handed over to Baghdad. The Turkish side was pleased with this development, especially when social media began spreading photos of Iraqi soldiers accompanied by senior officers from both sides at the border crossing. Nobody seemed to notice that there was not a single photo or report of a customs administration office being handed over.

By John Lee.

Saudi Arabia and Iraq are to discuss the opening a border crossing between the countries for the first time in 27 years.

On Tuesday, the Saudi Council of Ministers authorised the minister of finance to work with Iraq to draft an agreement on the re-opening of the Arar border post, which has been closed since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, apart from its use for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.

In a further sign of increasing cooperation between the neighbouring countries, state-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) has just resumed flights to Iraq after 27 years, following a similar announcement recently from Saudi budget airline Flynas.

(Source: Gulf Business, Saudi Gazette)

(Picture: King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Haider Al-Abadi, 22nd October 2017)