Sunni protesters block Iraq’s trade routes to Jordan, Syria

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BAGHDAD — The Sunni minority has launched protests that hampered
relations with neighboring Jordan.

Sunni demonstrators have been blocking roads in the western Iraqi
province of Anbar. The protesters blocked a highway to Jordan and Syria,
which halted trade and passengers to and from Iraq.

Iraqi Sunni protesters gather on the main highway to Syria and Jordan near Ramadi, in Anbar province, on Jan. 4. /AFP

“The [Iraqi] Defense Ministry has ordered the closing of the border,” an official said.

Officials said Baghdad informed Jordan and Syria of the border closure. Jordan said the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki said the closure began on Jan. 9 at the Trebil border terminal.

Sunnis have accused Al Maliki of banning non-Shi’ites from sharing power in Iraq. They said the prime minister was also becoming increasingly subservient to neighboring Iran.

Officials said the Sunnis have been encouraged by Gulf Cooperation
Council states, particularly Saudi Arabia, to operate independently of
Baghdad. They said Riyad has sent hundreds of millions of dollars to Sunni tribal chiefs, some of them believed linked to Al Qaida.

Sunni leaders said Al Maliki sent the Iraq Army to stop the
demonstrators in Anbar. They said the force left Baghdad and arrived near
the Anbara city of Faluja.

“We call on the Arab League and the United Nations to intervene to
safeguard protesters in Anbar and monitor security forces, who are trying to
draw their weapons against unarmed civilians and use force to put an end to
peaceful protests in Anbar,” Khamis Al Abtan, a representative of the Anbar
province, said.

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