By Wassim Bassem for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Even if it were true that Sumerians built the first airport at Nasiriyah in 5000 BC, as Iraqi Transport Minister Kazem Finjan claimed in October, they would be shocked at the state of Iraqi aviation today.
While Kazem said Iraq’s early settlers used the airport as a base for exploring space, allegedly even discovering Pluto, Iraqis today would be happy to discover planes at their local airport. The Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority announced April 12 that a number of the country’s airports will be rehabilitated, but as critics have pointed out, one small problem remains: There are not enough planes to serve them.
After Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait in August 1990, the international community imposed an air embargo and other sanctions on the country, which were lifted in 2003 after the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein. Provincial and local governments, in an effort to catch up with developments in the global transport sector, sought to establish airports in every city, but with little apparent consideration given to providing the airports with the required equipment, including planes.
The building spree included airports in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah (2005), Najaf (2008) and Dahuk (2012). On March 6, the Dhi Qar airport in Nasiriyah began weekly flights to Baghdad. Meanwhile, other Iraqi cities are also looking to establish air connections.
A year ago, the Babil governorate signed a memorandum of understanding with a French company for an international airport. A cornerstone for an international airport at Karbala was laid in January, and on April 6 another was laid in Kut. On March 12, the Transport Ministry confirmed that it will turn the military airport at Diwaniyah into a civil facility. Mosul’s airport is reportedly slated for rehabilitation after the city’s liberation from the Islamic State.