By Sara al-Qaher for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Controversial canal again sparks dispute in Iraq
Iraq is fighting a tide of dissent as its lawmakers accuse the government of handing over the Khor Abdullah border canal to Kuwait in an agreement concluded by the countries’ joint committees.
The Cabinet’s decision sparked outrage Jan. 26, with some parliament members and Cabinet sources claiming the move was part of a secret deal by which Iraq handed over Khor Abdullah as a gift to Kuwait, resulting in a crisis that government clarifications have failed to end.
An estuary, Khor Abdullah is at the northern end of the Persian Gulf off the shores of the Kuwaiti islands of Bubiyan and Warbah and the Iraqi Al-Faw peninsula, extending to Khor al-Zubair in Umm Qasr port.
Disagreement over the rights to Bubiyan were a major reason Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Following Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the UN Security Council in May 1993 adopted Resolution 833, demarcating the Iraq-Kuwait borders. A committee was formed of experts from 16 countries, including some former Soviet republics, the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, Venezuela, Pakistan and Morocco. The committee was charged with technical implementation of border demarcation between Iraq and Kuwait.
According to UN documents, that committee concluded that Khor Abdullah was a vital canal for both countries. Then a joint committee was formed to draft a bilateral agreement on the organization of navigation, and in 2013 the Iraqi Cabinet ratified the agreement and delivered it to the UN.
Over the past few years, Iraqi parliamentarians have strongly contested the Baghdad government’s approval of the agreement, which officially recognizes Kuwait’s right to establish Mubarak Al Kabeer port within the area shared by both nations, thus narrowing the ports on the Iraqi side.
“There’s a secret deal between the Iraqi and Kuwaiti governments concerning Khor Abdullah. The clarifications offered by the Iraqi government in this regard are not persuasive,” parliament member Aaliyah Nasif of the State of Law Coalition told Al-Monitor. She maintains Khor Abdullah was not included in Resolution 833, in legal or geographic terms.