In the presence of Iranian Vice President Muhammad Mukhber, Prime Minister Muhammad Shia’a Al-Sudani laid the foundation stone for the railway linkage project at the Shalamjah border crossing in Basra Governorate, to transport travelers and visitors to the holy shrines between Iran and Iraq.
Al-Sudani emphasized the importance of the railway link project in transporting travelers and visitors to the holy shrines from Iran and Central Asian countries, as well as its importance in strengthening the infrastructure of the Iraqi economy and increasing its growth, in a speech during the ceremony of laying the foundation stone for the project, indicating that the project has been subject to years of discussion and has been completed. The agreement between Iraq and Iran to finish it in 2021.
He stated that the railway link through the Shalamcheh port is one of numerous routes planned to convey tourists and pilgrims to the holy places in the governorates of Najaf and Karbala.
Al-Sudani noted that the railway linking project is another pillar in building our economy’s infrastructure, increasing Iraq’s capacity to engage with neighboring nations, and accepting passengers from Iran and Central Asian countries.
And he added that railways are still regarded as the highest means of economic feasibility, the cheapest mode of transportation, and the most secure, pointing out that no economy in the world has positive growth indicators unless railways are part of its supporting structure.
The Prime Minister cautioned that following the completion of the port of Faw and the industrial city adjacent to it, the (Development Road) project will present enormous prospects for developmental changes, becoming a new path among the region’s transport channels.
He stated that the government was concerned about constructive collaboration since it is the foundation of stability and prosperity in Iraq and the region.
Al-Sudani saw Iraq-Iran relations as important, stating, “We are working on the border industrial city project and the joint transportation routes between the two countries.”
Mukhber, for his part, predicted in a statement reported by Iranian official media that the country’s trade exchange process with Iraq would see a “huge jump” after the completion of the strategic (Basra-Shalamja) railway project, adding that this project will connect the railways between the two countries and complete international transportation routes.
Mokhber stated, “We hope that this important path will be a source of good and blessing for the countries of Iran and Iraq, as well as for the countries of the region, with the cooperation of the two countries over the next two years, within the framework of the policy of strengthening relations with neighbors, and after two years of continuous follow-up.”
And he described the reconnection of Iranian railway lines with Iraq and their extension to the Mediterranean as a “happy event,” adding that “we will witness a huge jump in trade exchange between the two countries with the completion of the railway link project.”
The Iranian Republic’s Vice President noted that with this railway, nations in the east of the world may access and converse with those in the Mediterranean. We also expect that this route would help to facilitate travel between Iran and Iraq.
He went on to note that the efforts are reflected in the project’s implementation, as around 1.4 kilometers of this road were created after 1,600 demining operations, and we arrived at the border.
Mukhber further stated that Iran accepted responsibility for cleaning mines along a 16-kilometer stretch of land within the scope of the plan and completed the work. Iraq is responsible for clearing mines from the next 16 to 18 kilometers.
In April 2023, Iraqi Transport Minister Razzaq Mohibis Al-Saadawi said that an agreement had been reached with the Iranian side to build a railway connecting the cities of Shalamja and Basra.
Last May, the Iraqi State Railways Company and its Iranian counterpart signed a memorandum of agreement on executive processes for the two nations’ railway connectivity.
According to economist Nabil Al-Marsoumi, the first phase of the project is to establish a 36-kilometer railway line between the towns of Khorramshahr and Basra during an 18-month period. Then to Syria’s Mediterranean port of Latakia.
He also stated that the initial cost of the first phase is 148 million dollars, and that the entire cost when the second phase is completed would be 10 billion dollars, suggesting that it was agreed that each country pays the expense of establishing this line.
Al-Marsoumi also stated that “the project’s purpose: transporting about 3 million passengers and goods between Iraq and Iran, as there are two Silk Road corridors, one by sea and the other by land, and the sea extends from northern China to Europe and Africa through the Red Sea, and the other route extends from China.” To Iran’s southern ports, which have a significant geostrategic location and from which products are carried. The land route travels from southern China to Kazakhstan, then to Central Asia, then to western Iran, and from western Iran, there are three highways, one to Istanbul, one to Europe, and one to Azerbaijan.
“As for the third road that concerns Iraq, it connects Iran with Iraq and Syria, and it is the only road that connects to the Silk Road, or through the great port of Faw,” he added, noting that Iran began implementing a project in 2019 to link the “Imam Khomeini” port on the Iranian side of the Gulf waters in the Syrian port of Latakia, via a railway network passing through Iraqi territory. The Iranians characterize this project as strategic and more vital than the rest of the land transit routes.
Concerning the project’s difficulties, the Iraqi economist explained that the areas through which the railway (Khorramshahr-Basra) passes are characterized by soft land as well as mines, which increases the difficulty of implementing the project, and the two sides are likely to be satisfied with the 15 land crossings.
On the project’s significance for Iran, Al-Marsoumi stated that it lay in easing travel to Iraq and maximizing economic rewards for Iran through improved commerce and ties with its neighbors. The initiatives might contribute to the establishment of commercial corridors across Iranian territory, allowing Iran to be at the center of commerce movements in the east, west, north, and south.
The relevance of the project for Iraq, according to the economist, is in enabling the passage of Iraqi passengers to Iran, as well as facilitating Iraq’s commodity imports from Iran and earning transit fees for Iranian goods transiting through Iraq.
Concerning the project’s concerns, Al-Marsoumi emphasized the importance of conducting a thorough investigation as well as economic feasibility studies to guarantee that the project does not negatively impact the port of Faw, the dry canal, or the development road.