30 Jul 2020 – 5:26 pm
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command announced that it was deploying military forces to Iraq’s land border crossings and sea ports.
The deployment follows a pledge by Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi to assert the authority of the state over all of Iraq’s border crossings to root out corrupt practices, stop the loss of billions of dollars in import duties and impose the rule of law.
The military forces have been deployed to the Um Qasr and Khor Al-Zubair sea ports, and to the Shalamcheh, Abu Flus, Badrah, Al-Mundhiriyah, Al-Shayb and Zarbatiyah land border crossings with Iran.
Forces were also deployed to Safwan land border crossing with Kuwait, Al-Qaim border crossing with Syria, Trebil with Jordan and to Arar border crossing with Saudi Arabia.
Iraq’s Ministry of Defence also announced that Basra Operations Command is securing the perimeter of the Shalamcheh border crossing with Iran by constructing a trench and other barriers to prevent smugglers from using unofficial entry points near the border crossing to evade the official customs post.
Restoring the rule of law
During a visit to Mendali border crossing with Iran in Diyala Province in July, the Prime Minister said that it was time to end corrupt practices at Iraqi border crossings and to confront what he described as the “shadowy figures” who intimidate and threaten Iraqi business people and citizens.
This is a message to the corrupt: today we began restoring law and order. The time when public money was being wasted under different guises is over. Today we started a new phase, as we promised we would, with regard to border crossings, which have become a den, a conduit and a foothold for the corrupt. Iraq’s customs posts will be under the protection of military forces.
Later, during a visit to the city of Basra, the Prime Minister specifically addressed corruption at Iraqi sea ports and reiterated his determination and that of the Iraqi government to end corrupt practices and the waste of public money at the ports:
The ports of Basra must be under the authority of the state. Billions of dollars have been wasted at the ports which went to the pockets of the corrupt.
While in Basra, the Prime Minister ordered eight senior customs officials to be removed from their posts at Um Qasr ports.
Modernising customs operations
The Prime Minister said that securing the customs posts and border crossings was the first step, to be followed by other measures including the modernisation of customs operations through the introduction of automation and streamlining procedures to combat corruption, end the waste of public money and improve revenue collection.
Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Ali Allawi underscored, soon after coming into office, that this Iraqi government identified the diversification of the sources of state revenues, through ending the waste of public money, tackling corruption and increasing income from customs, as a top priority.
Dr. Allawi said that the new Iraqi government is committed to submitting a White Paper to Parliament in September 2020 which will set out a roadmap to reform the Iraqi economy, combat corruption, encourage investment and grow the private sector.