Iran, Iraq Nearing Historic Deal on Connecting Railroads

Iran, Iraq Nearing Historic Deal on Connecting Railroads
Iran, Iraq Nearing Historic Deal on Connecting Railroads

Talks to build a short railroad link between Iraq’s southern port city of Basra and the Iranian town of Shalamcheh are nearing completion, according to a tweet from the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.
Although the line would run for only 30 km and cost around $150 million, it would be the only rail connection between the two countries at present and vastly improve communications in the wider region by connecting China’s Belt and Road network to Iraq and bring Iran closer to Syria, Global Construction Review reported.
The office of the Iraqi prime minister tweeted: “The negotiations with Iran to build a railroad between Basra and Shalamcheh have reached their final stages and we have signed 15 agreements and memorandums of understanding with Jordan and Egypt regarding energy and transportation lines.”
Funding for the project, which was approved by the Iraqi Cabinet in April, will come from Iran's Mostazafan Foundation.
The link, which has been discussed over many years, was first announced in November 2018, when the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways announced that it hopes to build a line between the two cities.
The Al-Monitor news site reported at the time: “The railroad is part of Syria’s reconstruction deal … promoting religious tourism among Iran, Iraq and Syria. Syrian opposition parties, however, have rejected the railroad, believing it will entrench Iranian influence and help provide the logistic services necessary for its presence in Iraq and Syria.”
IRNA reported that Iraj Masjedi, Tehran’s ambassador in Baghdad, argued that the railroad could make Iraq a regional transport hub.
He said Iraq could become one of the “largest transit countries in the region”, and that “Iraq can be connected to China through the railroads of the Islamic Republic of Iran and increase its strategic importance in the region”.
Masjedi also suggested that the railroad could lead to an expansion of Basra’s port facilities. He noted that now only small ships can dock in this port, but by developing and equipping the port, along with the dredging of Arvandroud river, the situation could change and help the port prosper.  

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