Iraq News

Iraq to reopen Anbar international highway

By Khalid al-Taie

Iraqi army drones are part of new security measures to monitor the desert area along the Anbar international highway ahead of its official reopening. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Border Guard Command]

Iraqi army drones are part of new security measures to monitor the desert area along the Anbar international highway ahead of its official reopening. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Border Guard Command]

In conjunction with the Wednesday (August 30th) reopening of the Trebil crossing with Jordan, Iraqi forces have been preparing to reopen the international highway that connects Baghdad to Jordan and Syria via Anbar.

The road was closed after the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) seized control of swathes of Anbar, and has remained so for more than three years.

Iraqi forces have recently tightened their grip along the 400 kilometre road, Anbar provincial council member Athal al-Fahdawi told Diyaruna.

They have set up several guard posts and have enhanced surveillance operations, using cameras and small drones to monitor activity in the desert areas surrounding the highway, he said.

"The security forces also began creating an earthen berm adjacent to the road in the areas that are still considered dangerous," al-Fahdawi said.

These include Kilo-160 and al-Saqar areas, west of Ramadi.

The new security measures are aimed at "reviving the international traffic route, which is one of the largest and most important strategic roads of Iraq", he said, noting that the international highway is one of Iraq's key economic arteries.

"There is a great deal of work to prepare the road, from the security point of view, as it passes through vast areas that are not free of terrorist caches and hideouts," al-Fahdawi said.

Previous attacks have been launched from deep in the desert, he added.

Gateway to commercial activity

The international highway has long served as an active trade route, particularly between Iraq and Jordan, through the Trebil crossing, which officially reopened Wednesday.

"The government is making great efforts to secure the road," said Kazim al-Aqabi, head of the border crossings authority.

The Iraqi government will not make a final decision on opening the road until a comprehensive study of its security and readiness for commercial and travel traffic has been completed, he told Diyaruna.

"There are sufficient procedures and forces in place to protect that corridor," he said, noting the presence of the Anbar Operations Command and Border Police.

"On August 20th, we accompanied a security delegation headed by Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji to survey the [Trebil] crossing," he said.

"We have seen it, and it is in good condition," he said. "It can receive trucks transporting goods and passengers, and everything is ready to resume activity."

The border crossings authority briefly opened the crossing on August 22nd to test its condition and that of the international traffic route.

"We moved a large convoy of 100 trucks belonging to the transport and commercial ministries from Baghdad to the crossing point," he said, noting that the trial run was successful.

Anbar to reap economic benefits

Iraq in general and the people of Anbar in particular will reap significant economic benefits from the resumption of trade activity, al-Aqabi said.

"Many of these people will return to work in shipping goods and trade, which they lost because of terrorism," he said, adding that "many cities that road passes through will return to life".

"We expect very important results," economist Majid al-Suwari told Diyaruna.

"The Anbar international highway was operational before the ISIS occupation, and the crossing point was bringing profits to Iraq and contributing to the country's needs for many goods and items," he said.

Rehabilitating the road will provide good financial returns that will help Anbar rebuild its infrastructure, al-Suwari said.

"It will give the people of the province many jobs and thus reduce the problem of unemployment," he said, in addition to facilitating international trade and development.

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