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Cablegate: Amman-Baghdad Air Service

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS AMMAN 004023

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

FOR AMBASSADOR BREMER FROM AMBASSADOR GNEHM

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR IZ JO
SUBJECT: AMMAN-BAGHDAD AIR SERVICE


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED.

1. (SBU) We understand that CPA is planning to reopen
Baghdad International Airport to limited commercial air
service around July 15 and that it is currently analyzing
requests to provide air service in and out of Baghdad. Royal
Jordanian Airlines (RJ) CEO Samer Majali, who recently met
with CPA officials in Baghdad, confirmed to Ambassador Gnehm
June 30 that RJ remains ready to operate a daily
Amman-Baghdad-Amman flight with onward connections to the
United States and Europe as soon as possible. RJ is prepared
at a later point to run two daily flights in and out of BIAP.

2. (SBU) As the private sector, humanitarian agencies, and
the U.S. and foreign governments are realizing, Jordan is the
natural bridge between central Iraq and the outside world.
RJ operated flights to Baghdad with UN approval during the
sanctions era, and most Iraqi and foreign officials,
businesspeople and journalists have become accustomed to
traveling to Iraq via Amman. One reason is that the
practicalities of operating out of Jordan versus the Gulf are
much simpler: Americans and other foreign travelers can
obtain visas at the airport and logistics, such as air
freight, warehousing, and high quality hotel rooms, are less
expensive and in many cases work better here. An indication
of the demand is the several thousands of travelers per day
who spend two days and a night at the border braving the
dangerous road between Amman and Baghdad. Many, such as
truckers, would still travel by road, but many would much
prefer to fly.

3. (SBU) From the point of view of U.S.-Jordan relations
and U.S. regional political and economic objectives,
establishing an air link to Iraq via Jordan would help center
Jordan as the model for open economic policies in the region.
This central role Jordan plays in our regional strategy was
made repeatedly made by Secretary Powell, Ambassador
Zoellick, and other senior U.S. officials during the World
Economic Forum meetings. In addition, helping position
Jordan as a regional air hub could have significant economic
benefits for an country in which we have and are investing
large amounts of economic assistance.

4. (SBU) RJ should be able to satisfy practical
requirements for operating into BIAP. The airline was
approved by TSA last summer to originate direct flights to
the United States from Amman. TSA's annual review of RJ's
security procedures is scheduled for later this month. All
RJ flights carry armed sky marshals. In addition, the
Jordanian Civil Aviation Authority has revised air routes
between Amman and Iraq to avoid the previous need to overfly
Syria. Jordanian radar coverage extends 220 miles from Queen
Alia airport, i.e. approximately 12 minutes flying time into
Iraqi airspace. After that, radar coverage is not fully in
place until the Baghdad area, but flights entering from
eastern Jordan are able to maintain positive VHF radio
contact with controllers. Alternatively, RJ is ready to
overfly southern Iraq (with only a small additional flight
time) until a complete ATC system is in place. The Jordanian
CAA is discussing these issues with the CENTAF ATC cell in
Doha.

5. (SBU) An incidental benefit of a Baghdad-Amman link
would be to facilitate U.S. Government travel to Iraq. Amman
is served by several major European carriers that have
codeshares with U.S. carriers (Delta, United, Northwest). If
RJ succeeds in its current effort to find a U.S. codeshare
partner, USG travelers would be able to fly non-stop from New
York or Chicago to Amman, with a one-hour onward flight to
Baghdad.

6. (SBU) From our perspective, we do not see a downside to
having RJ as one of the foreign airlines able to operate to
Baghdad. The airline and the Jordanians are ready and
willing to do a good job. Approval of RJ's request would
seem to be in the best interests of Iraqis, Jordan and the
United States. If there are downsides, please let us know so
that we can follow-up with the Jordanians.
GNEHM

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