Iraq - Infrastructure, power, and communications

Prior to the Gulf War, Iraq's infrastructure was one of the most highly developed and extensive in the region. The government has been largely successful in its efforts to repair the severe damage the infrastructure sustained as a result of the 1990 Gulf War. The lack of resources available to the government, however, has meant that most of the repair work is substandard. In 1996, the country was serviced by a network of over 45,550 kilometers (28,304 miles) of primary and secondary roads, 38,400 kilometers (23,862 miles) of which were paved. The nation's 2,032-kilometer (1,263-mile) railway system is in good condition and connects Iraq to its neighbors to the north, Syria and Turkey.

Iraq has 2 major airports, located in Baghdad and Basra. Both airports are in fairly good condition. There are 3 smaller civil airfields at Haditha, Kirkuk and Mosul. All commercial airlines stopped service to Iraq in 1991 under the United Nations sanctions. A number of countries, mainly France, Russia, and Jordan, began sending humanitarian flights carrying food and medicine to Baghdad in mid-2000, in violation of the sanctions. These flights were sent as an expression of opposition to the continuation of the UN sanctions against Iraq. The country has 3 ports at Umm Qasr, Khawr az-Zubayr, and al-Basra, which currently have limited functionality because of the damage sustained during the Gulf War and the subsequent trade sanctions. Since 1997, most of Iraq's needs are serviced at Umm Qasr, the main point of entry for most food imports.

Country Newspapers TV Sets a Radios Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Iraq 19 229 83 N/A 0 N/A N/A 0.00 N/A
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Saudi Arabia 57 321 262 N/A 31 N/A 49.6 1.17 300
Iran 28 28 265 157 0.0 6 N/A 31.9 0.05 100
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

Electric power is supplied to Iraqis by state-owned power stations throughout the country, which have a total capacity of 17,000 megawatts of power. As a result of repeated bombings during the Iran-Iraq war and the Gulf War, power stations today can barely meet local demand, and it is estimated that in 2000, capacity in the central and southern regions supplied only 50 percent of demand. Despite the construction of 4 new power stations after the Gulf War, blackouts are common, and at least 14 central and southern provinces experience an average of 12 hours of power cuts daily. In Baghdad, 4-hour power outages are routine.

Telecommunications services in Iraq are in poor condition and are quite unreliable, mainly as a result of repeated air strikes by allied forces during and after the war. The country had 675,000 working lines in 1995. Mobile cellular service is unavailable. Internet service is available but is both costly and unreliable.

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