Despite these efforts, there is a more effective solution, according to Rubaie. He asserted, “[We need to] encourage other airlines to come to Iraq, persuading them to increase their flights to Iraqi cities, especially the holy ones, so that city airports can be invested in and made financially profitable.”
Tawfiq al-Kaabi, another Services Committee member, told Al-Monitor, “The local governments have been establishing airports, mistakenly thinking that these are easy projects that would bring investment into the provinces, while the reality on the ground is totally different. These airports, which have no air traffic, be it internal or external, remain useless.”
Kaabi said, “The focus should be on the development of infrastructure for other means of transport, such as trains, highways and advanced land transport systems.” He added, “Development works in the coming period will go in this direction.”
Kaabi said that a breakthrough in Iraq’s financial crisis would help in implementing some promising transport projects, including rail connections from central provinces to Basra in the south. He added, “There is also a project to establish a metro rail network in Baghdad and [other] major cities.”
Given Iraq’s renowned historical sites, the country has the potential to become a desired destination for international tourists and other travelers if properly developed and its monuments preserved, restored and maintained. Religious tourism could also be a big draw given the number of important and ancient religious sites sacred or important to Sunnis and Shiites in addition to biblical Christian sites.
In the meantime, convincing international airlines to fly to Iraq’s existing airports would appear to take priority over establishing new facilities. For now, the number of flights to and from Baghdad remains limited in number and destinations.