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Attacks on U.S. Forces in Syria and Iraq: Will Iran Open the “Silk Road”?

Iran wants to channel the funds from Syria to Tehran via a railway connecting the port of Khomeini in Khuzestan, southwestern Iran, to the Mediterranean Sea, Syria TV says.

Iran appears to be expeditiously moving forward with the implementation of agreements it has reached with the Syrian regime, aimed at recovering accumulated debts spanning the past 13 years. The intention is to channel the funds obtained from Syria to Tehran via a railway connecting the port of Khomeini in Khuzestan, southwestern Iran, to the Mediterranean Sea. However, the realization of Iran’s policy in Syria, particularly through this transit line, is still a work in progress.

The transit line serves as a strategic avenue for Iran to broaden and solidify its influence along the transportation route, essentially reshaping its political axis with Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon into a cohesive “geographical axis.” This strategic shift is underscored by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s call for an expedited full-scale implementation of agreements and understandings between the two nations, a move that aligns with the overarching vision of establishing an “Iranian Silk Road.”

Unfinished road 

In 2011, Iran successfully concluded the construction of the 17-kilometer Khorramshahr-Shalamcheh railway, with the objective of establishing a rail link between Iran and the city of Basra. Subsequently, in 2014, Tehran and Baghdad entered into a memorandum of understanding to initiate the Shalamcheh-Basra line.

Israeli Raid Near Damascus

According to the agreement, Iran is responsible for designing and constructing a bridge over the Shatt al-Arab, while Iraq has committed to developing a 32-kilometre railway from the Shalamjah border to the Basra railway station within its territory.

Originating from Shalamjah on the Iraqi border, the railway traverses Basra, extends through the city of al-Bukamal at the Syrian border, and terminates at the Mediterranean port of Latakia. However, the lack of financial support from the Iraqi government has disrupted the intended route, as the agreement stipulates that Baghdad is obligated to complete the railway within its borders at its own expense.

Iranian official sources have emphasized on multiple occasions that the transit line holds the potential to contribute to Syria’s reconstruction, enhance the transport sector, and facilitate religious tourism between Iran, Iraq, and Syria. These discussions and commitments were further solidified during the recent visit of Syrian Prime Minister Hussein Arnous to Tehran.

Similar to Iraq, the Syrian regime faces challenges in fulfilling the Iranian project, grappling with substantial debt, economic and financial crises, and complexities in northeastern Syria, including the presence of U.S. forces and their allies. These factors pose obstacles to Iran’s ambition to link the routes of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative with Iraq through its territory.

Attacks on U.S. forces: Will it open the way for Iran? 

Iran is intensifying its pressure on the Syrian regime to recover outstanding debts and activate a land transport transit line through Iraq to Syria, estimated at fifty billion dollars, as revealed by documents leaked from Iran’s Supreme National Security Council meeting.

Economic sources in Damascus disclosed to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that Iran is relentlessly working to activate a land transport transit line through Iraq to Syria, along with an organized and unregulated shipping line connecting Iran to Syrian ports. The primary objective is to establish an isolated trade route, circumventing international economic sanctions, and this initiative is referred to as the East-West Corridor in Iran.

Despite these efforts, Iranian agreements and projects in Syria continue to encounter numerous challenges and obstacles, including issues related to the laws and regulations governing economic activities in Syria. The prevalence of administrative corruption further complicates implementation, and political hindrances arise from the U.S. presence in Syria. Additionally, opposition from Syrians to the Iranian presence on their territory poses additional hurdles.

Under the pretext of “supporting Gaza,” Iranian militias are escalating attacks on U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq. A security official from the Iraqi Kataib Hezbollah has vowed to launch more attacks on U.S. forces in the region, asserting that the recent attacks on U.S. interests were just the beginning of a new set of rules of engagement, according to Reuters.


This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.


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