By Army Pfc. Bethany L. Little
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 5, 2009 - Work to improve commerce and security in Iraq continued as a cargo transload area opened along the Iraq-Iran border following a ribbon-cutting ceremony here Sept. 26. The project, a cooperative effort among coalition and Iraqi forces and Iraq's finance ministry, allows for commerce and safe trading between Iraq and Iran.
"I am very thankful for all of the help coalition forces have provided for us to create this area," said Maj. Gen. Isam Salih Yaseen, the Zurbatiyah port director for Iraq's border enforcement department. "We now have the ability to be more proficient and provide better security between Iraq and Iran."
The cargo transload process starts at the border between Iraq and Iran. Trucks are weighed and backed up to the 50-lane area, where customs police inspect their cargo, ensuring the trucks contain useable products and aren't carrying contraband or produce that's unfit for consumption. The goods then are transferred into Iraqi trucks and taken to the final inspection area in Iraq.
Some 200 to 500 cargo trucks pass through the transload area daily, and about 5,000 people are processed through the point of entry.
"This project provides an opportunity for customs police to see what is transferred through the two countries and provide security for both countries," said Army Maj. David W. Gordon, Zebatiya point of entry team chief.
The point of entry here is equipped with a dining area, office work space, an armory, living quarters, bathrooms and showers for the personnel manning the facility. The transload area cost $5.3 million to build, but taxes, tariffs and fees provide revenue.
Key leaders -- including Army Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe, director of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq's training and advisory mission, and Army Brig. Gen. Gerald Lang, Multinational Division South's deputy commanding general for support -- attended the ceremony and toured the facility.
"This project shows how the trade between Iraq and Iran will continue to grow and commercialize in a good way," Yaseen said. "It is a major responsibility to take on this area, but it will help us better our security and strengthen our economy."
(Army Pfc. Bethany L. Little serves with the 172nd Infantry Brigade.)