Another way to help get Iraq’s neighbors to play a more constructive role is to encourage economic linkages so that countries neighboring Iraq have a greater stake in helping Iraqis tackle their internal conflicts. For example, Iraq depends on several countries to export its oil products, particularly from the northern fi elds near Kirkuk, which are connected to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan by a pipeline. Iraq also has pipelines connecting it to Syria that had been used before the 2003 war. Getting these pipelines back up and running at full capacity could help strengthen linkages between Iraq and its neighbors. These pipelines are not fully operational in part because of repeated attacks by Iraqi insurgent groups. In addition, in May 2007 Iran and Iraq signed a deal to increase Iraqi oil exports to Iran via a new pipeline in the southern part of Iraq.
Iraq’s economic linkages with Iran go well beyond oil exports. Iraq has become increasingly dependent on a wide range of Iranian imports that are not made in Iraq because its industries were hampered by international sanctions for years. Several cities in Iraq have turned to Iran to address their electricity shortages, including Halabja, a Kurdish city in the north, and Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city. In addition, Iran has provided more than $64 million in aid the past four years to improve facilities for religious tourists to the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. The United States should not fear these economic linkages; we should quietly encourage more cooperation through the regional contact groups and meetings. By encouraging the development of common interests among countries in the region, it can further isolate the extremists and terrorist groups who lack an agenda for improving the quality of life for people in the region.
For more information about the Center for American Progress’ policies on the war in Iraq, please see: