Is an Iran-Israel War Aimed at Sabotaging Major Infrastructure?

The current danger of a war breaking out between Iran and Israel appears to be aimed at sabotaging, among other things, a major initiative to finally build a rail network linking the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean, that would involve Iran, Iraq, Syria, Türkiye, Saudi Arabia, and other regional players.

On April 22, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made an official visit to Iraq, his first in 13 years, where he held talks with his Iraqi counterpart, Abdul Latif Rashid, and Prime Minister Muhammad Shiya al-Sudani. Among the key issues discussed was the Development Road Project which aims at linking Iraq’s Grand Faw Port on the Persian Gulf to Türkiye’s southern border, a distance of 1,200 miles by rail and road. The $17 billion road and rail project, also known as the Dry Canal Project, is expected to be completed by 2030.

In April 2023, Iranian Minister for Roads and Construction Mehrdad Bazerbash led an official delegation to Damascus, where he and Syrian Transport Minister Zuhair Khuzaym discussed ground, sea, and air transport projects. At the top of the agenda was the project to link Khomeini Port on the Persian Gulf in southwestern Iran to the northern Syrian port of Latakia, via Iraq, which would require linking the three countries’ rail networks. The first link, begun in 2023, is the 32 km between Shalamcheh in Iran and Basra in Iraq, which requires de-mining the region. Also, a bridge construction over the Shatt al-Arab (Arvand River) is under way by Iranian companies.

Upon entering the existing Iraqi rail network, the route would proceed, through Baghdad, to al-Qa’im on the Iraqi-Syrian border, where a new link is planned to Syria’s Abu Kamal, then westward to the Syrian port of Latakia via Homs, where the line will split, south to Damascus and north to Latakia.

Earlier in April 2023, Iran’s Minister Bazerbash had met with Iraq’s Transport Minister Razzaq Muhibis Al-Saadawi in Tehran, at the head of a delegation including the CEO of the Railway Company and the Ports Organization. In January, technical teams from Syria and Iraq had met in Damascus to also discuss implementation of the project.

This project would facilitate the reconstruction of Syrian railways and of the country in general. More broadly, it would serve to bolster the integration of Southwest Asia through linking these three countries with Saudi Arabia, the United Emirates, and Oman, where railways are also under development.

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