Iraq’s main port of Umm Qasr in Basra will lose 60% of its business if Kuwait goes ahead with a neighbouring port of its own, reports AKnews. In addition to thousands of dock workers losing their jobs, it is also believed that the livelihoods of local fishermen will be affected.
A dispute over the territory where Kuwait laid the founding stone of its new Mubarak port two weeks ago, xenophobic comments from many Iraqi politicians, and thinly veiled threats from a more extreme Iraqi faction complete the picture of this diplomatic and economic incident between the two rival countries.
Minister of Transport, Hadi al-Ameri, believes that the port does not respect the international boundary set down by international law and the UN. To further complicate matters, he has threatened to resign if the Iraq government does not get on with building its second port in the al-Faw area.
Iraq could call on the UN Security Council to take action: “The Council of Ministers puts the interests of Iraq above everything else and will not allow any violation of its territory or any harm to its economy”, Ameri said.
The political response has been mixed. Former Iraqi Minister of Transport, Amer Abdul Jabbar, and local politicians, such as Ahmad al Sulaiti, vice-chairman of the Provincial Council in Basra, criticized the government for not taking firm action against Kuwait. Jabbar even called on the government to close its nearest port to prevent Kuwaiti goods and travelers entering Iraq.
Awwad Uday, a Sadrist MP from Basra, warned ominously that it will take action that will “surprise all the political blocs” in Iraq. It said it had “taken a path no other bloc had taken towards the Kuwaiti port issue”, reports AKnews.
Arkan Arshad, member of the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Relations, tried to contain xenophobia, saying: “Members of parliament have the freedom to make statements, but the correct diplomatic channel for comments is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”
Political party Al-Iraqiya List has taken a constructive stance, issuing a statement asking parties to take a national view and support the government.
Habib Hamza al-Tarafi of the National Coalition suggested that a dispute between the neighbours would be best resolved using diplomatic means.
An Iraqi delegation has gone to Kuwait to discuss the situation.