“A Dangerous Road Ahead”
The Washington Post, November 30, 2014, p.A1
“It might be the most hairy truck route in the world — a nail-biting, long-haul, ‘Mad Max’-style endurance race from the Jordan border through the black heart of Islamic State territory. Some days only dozens — some days hundreds — of truckers hungry for big paydays make the vital run to deliver everything from apples to antibiotics to Iraqi civilians, many of them living under siege in territory controlled by the radical Islamist group. The truckers’ journey provides a window into a dangerous region that has become even more terrifying. Since the militants took over northern and western Iraq this year, the route has become, the wheelmen say, the highway through hell. … The trucking route from Jordan to Iraq was once a prosperous route that generated as much as $1 billion in trade a year, according to some estimates. During Hussein’s rule, 2,000 trucks might have entered Iraq daily from Jordan, a number that gradually dropped to 400 in the years after the U.S. invasion, according to the Jordan Truck Owners Union. Since the Islamic State captured Mosul and large swathes of Anbar province in June, the number of trucks crossing into Iraq from Jordan has plummeted to 30 on some days, according to Mohammed Kheir Dawood, the union’s head. But as the conflict has deepened, demand for Jordanian goods has only risen in western Iraq. Importers, wholesalers, traders and even private individuals order thousands of tons of dry goods, pharmaceuticals, vegetables and building supplies — materials the besieged towns of Fallujah, Ramadi and Mosul are largely cut off from. … Drivers working the Iraq trade can triple their usual $280 monthly salary in a week. According to the union, shipping companies are also offering bonuses, hardship pay and additional allowances for food and fuel for wheelmen willing to work the route. Owner-operators who drive their own rigs, and who now dominate the trade, can make $2,000 for a run, though they say the drives that once took several days can now last a week or two.”
Quickie Analysis: Interesting look at a side of day-to-day life in the region that doesn’t get much press.