Iraq’s Prime Minister commenced construction on Saturday for a pioneering railway line project connecting Iraq to neighboring Iran.
This ambitious endeavor, named the “Basra-Chalamja connection project,” aims to establish a vital rail link between the major port city of Basra in southern Iraq and Iran’s extensive railway network through the Chalamja border crossing, according to an official from the Transport Ministry.
The project is anticipated to span a duration of “between 18 and 24 months.” Its primary objective is to facilitate the seamless transportation of travelers from the Islamic Republic of Iran and Central Asian nations to the revered Shiite holy cities, as articulated by Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani during a speech at the inauguration ceremony.
Al-Sudani emphasized that discussions surrounding this project had been ongoing for several years before a formal agreement was eventually reached in 2021. In a symbolic gesture marking the project’s commencement, Prime Minister Al-Sudani laid a foundation stone alongside Iran’s first vice-president, Mohammad Mokhber, during the Saturday ceremony.
Acknowledging Iran’s support, Al-Sudani expressed gratitude for Tehran’s commitment to demining operations at the border, ensuring a safe pathway for the railway line, as well as the construction of a crucial railway bridge over the Shatt al-Arab waterway, where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers converge before flowing into the Gulf.
It is worth noting that Iraq and Iran endured an eight-year conflict in the 1980s, initiated by Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran following the 1979 Islamic revolution. However, this new railway project signifies a significant step towards fostering strategic cooperation between the two nations. Iranian state media reported Mohammad Mokhber describing the project as “strategic” and predicted its completion “over the next two years.”
Approximately half of the planned 32 kilometers (20 miles) of rail track will be situated on the Iranian side of the border, as per Iran’s official IRNA news agency. Iraq, a nation grappling with the aftermath of war and systemic corruption, has long struggled with deteriorating infrastructure, including outdated highways and railways.
Prime Minister Al-Sudani’s government has actively sought to establish and strengthen regional partnerships, exemplified by the May unveiling of the $17-billion “Route of Development” project. This initiative encompasses a comprehensive road and railway system spanning 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) from Iraq’s northern border with Turkey to its southern Gulf region, further showcasing Iraq’s commitment to infrastructural rejuvenation and international collaboration.