A close look at two border towns in Iraq’s western desert illustrates the law of unintended consequences. The Iraqi government, bordering countries, and the international community moved to more tightly control official border crossings in order to defeat ISIS. As a result, however, militias and smugglers have moved a great deal of commerce, legal and illicit, to other crossing points. In the meantime, people along once-prosperous trade routes suffer privation and violence, driving new conflicts. 

Researchers Renad Mansour and Hayder Al-Shakeri tell the tale of trade, smuggling, and conflict across Iraq’s borders. The trajectory of trade route towns Rutba and Qaim help explain the mechanics of conflict supply chains and the unintended consequences of efforts to secure parts of the border without thinking of the spinoff effects. 

This podcast is part of the ‘Order from Ashes’ series from the Century Foundation. It was originally published here.