An official from the Anbar province, which is located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of the Iraqi capital, said that the central government in Baghdad is trying to punish the province over the protests that have been taking place for months against government policies by depriving it of the proceeds from one of the most important border crossings in the country.
The head of Anbar’s Provincial Council, Jassim al-Halbusi, told Al-Monitor that the central government, which oversees the management of Iraq’s border crossings, asked the administration of the Traibil [Turaybeel, Tirbil, Tarbiel, Trebil] border post (pictured) — linking Iraq and Jordan — at the beginning of this month “to tighten procedures for inspecting cars and trucks that use this crossing. This led to a decline in traffic at this crossing, as well as a decline in its revenues, of which the province receives five percent.”
“Things have escalated since the morning of Tuesday, June 11, to the point that the crossing was totally closed to all traffic,” Halbusi added. He said he believes that “this measure is aimed at punishing Anbar residents who have rejected the government’s persistent failure to manage the country’s affairs.”
The Jordanian Ministry of Interior said in a statement on Sunday, June 9, that Iraq reported that it would close the Trebil border crossing that connects the two countries as of next Tuesday for a period of 48 hours, for reasons related to “internal Iraqi affairs.”
The statement, reported by the Jordan News Agency, said that the closure would affect all passenger and cargo movement “and will not include air traffic, which will operate normally during the closure period. There will be no changes to any scheduled flights.”
Anbar, the most prominent Sunni Arab stronghold in Iraq, has seen protests and sit-ins that have entered their sixth month against the policies of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Iraq had closed the crossing at the end of April, amid reports that the Iraqi army intended to storm a square where protesters were marching against Maliki near the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province.
According to a statement reported by local media outlets on June 11, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq said, “The continuation of the closure will have an adverse effect on the Iraqi economy and will hinder the flow of goods. It will also increase the hardships faced by transport truck drivers, as they will not be able to continue along their way.” The statement added, “A lot of goods have been damaged due to the fact that they are not allowed to enter the country.”
Mutlaq’s statement noted, “The closure of the border crossing at Trebil contributed to a rise in food and commodity prices.”
Halbusi said, “The losses endured by the province are not limited to the fact that it will lose its share of the border crossing proceeds; another problem is the salaries of the workers who are paid on a daily basis.”
“Dozens of families survive based on the daily wages their sons who work in Trebil receive. If these workers are to stop their work, then this means that they will not be getting paid,” he added.
Kareem Khudair, who owns a truck and works in the transport of goods to and from Jordan through the Trebil crossing, said that “the transport fares doubled when the crossing authorities tightened the procedures for checking our trucks, prior to completely closing the border crossing.”
He told Al-Monitor, “About two months ago, the transportation fares for my truck ranged between $ 1,500 to $ 1,700 per shift, while they had increased to $ 3,000 prior to the crossing’s closure.”
“We had to wait at the crossing for weeks, while it used to take us only two days to cross,” he added.
Economist Jawad al-Shammari said, “The prices of most of the goods received through Jordan to Iraq increased by about 10% due to the tightened inspection procedures in Trebil.” He added, “The decision to completely close the crossing will lead to a further increase in prices.”
“The prices of vegetables, fruits, printing materials and several types of canned foods have increased because of the Trebil problem,” Shammari told Al-Monitor. “A lot of these items are consumed on a daily basis, which means that Iraqi citizens will be the ones to directly feel this price increase.”
Omar al-Shaher is a contributor to Al-Monitor’s Iraq Pulse. His writing has appeared in publications including France’s LeMonde, Iraq’s Alesbuyia, Egypt’s Al-Ahaly and the Elaph website. He previously covered political and security affairs for Iraq’s Al-Mada newspaper.