Scrap metal, crude oil and bricks. These are just some of the imports that Iraqi checkpoints are now blocking from entering the Kurdistan Region, say businessmen in the region.
The claims surface at a time when the relationship between the Kurdistan regional administration and Iraq’s central government is incredibly tense.
The Kurdistan Investment Union says scrap metal imports in particular are being blocked. Estimates suggest that factories in the Kurdistan Region had weekly imports of over 300 tons of scrap steel and iron from other Iraqi cities. That was before this latest political crisis.
Goods also travel in the opposite direction, from Kurdistan into Iraq. The Kurdistan Investment Union says over $20bn worth of goods enters Kurdistan annually from Turkey and Iran. About 60 percent of this goes into the rest of Iraq.
Iraq’s central government denies claims that goods are being blocked on purpose.
Tensions have been high since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki formed Iraq's Dijla armed force to take responsibility of security in the disputed areas.
Kurdistan’s Peshmarga is also deployed in the disputed areas. The Kurds said Dijla was a way for Iraq’s PM to gain control over the areas. The central government said Dijla was merely about fighting terrorism. The two sides are now considering letting the citizens of the disputed areas be responsible for their own security.
Kurdish businesses say that Baghdad wants to shut down business avenues with the Kurdistan Region. But the central government says this is just politically motivated speech and that economic development in the region reflects on the Iraqi economy as a whole.