Closure of Iraq-Jordan border a blow to ISIS
AMMAN - Iraq’s closure of its border with Jordan has deprived Islamic State (ISIS) militants of cargo and taxes they levied on Jordanian goods passing through ISIS-controlled territory to Baghdad.
Iraqi drivers hauling fruit, vegetables and other foodstuffs, along with detergents, soap and other supplies, from Jordan to Baghdad complained for several months that ISIS confiscated at least half, and sometimes all, of their freight.
Drivers reported that ISIS levied hefty taxes on the supplies passing through Anbar, a vast desert region in southern Iraq bordering Jordan. Baghdad normally receives about 500 tonnes of Jordanian fruit per day but exports dwindled in the wake of ISIS’s takeover of large sections of Anbar in early 2014.
Six weeks ago, Jordan and Iraq agreed to use an alternative route for their trade.
“Jordanian trucks now go to Kuwait overland through Saudi Arabia and then transfer cargo via Iraq’s southern port of Basra,” according to Saadi Abu Hammad, president of the Jordan Exporters and Producers Association for Fruit and Vegetables.
“We have been using this route, which is safe and viable, for a few weeks,” Abu Hammad said in an interview.
Jordanian Agriculture Ministry spokesman Nimr Haddadin said Jordanian exports to Iraq were “unaffected by the closure of the border”.
“Our exports to Iraq have been constant with no interruption, going through the new route,” Haddadin said. He said the Iraqi government notified Jordan of its intention to seal off the border a day before it did so on July 16th.
The border closure marks another blow to ISIS, which lost a vital trade route in neighbouring Syria, which the group used as a smuggling hub.
Syria’s Tal Abyad, on the border with Turkey, was captured from ISIS in June by Kurdish groups backed by armed Syrian militias. That denied ISIS a pathway for smuggling weapons and ammunition into its self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa in northern Syria.
ISIS exports cheap Syrian oil to sell on the black market to finance its operations. In Iraq, Brigadier- General Saad Maan, a spokesman for Iraq’s Joint Special Operations Command, was quoted July 16th by the Associated Press as saying authorities had closed the Trebil border post until the security situation improves.
His remarks came days after Iraq launched a large-scale military offensive to dislodge ISIS from Anbar.
In summer 2014, Jordan banned its truck drivers from going to Iraq to guard them against kidnapping and possible beheading by ISIS.
Mohammad Dawood, head of the Jordanian Truck Owners Union, said before the ban about 400 Jordanian trucks entered Iraq each day. Since the ban, about 100 Iraqi trucks enter Jordan daily to load different types of cargo and commodities, said Dawood, who estimated losses incurred by the land transport sector in Jordan since 2011 at more than $700 million.