Trains, those useful and innocently appealing transport devices, are being used by Iran as a prime tool of expansion. American and Israeli intelligence are watching with extreme anxiety the trans-border railway links Iran is building to bind Iraq and Syria to its own highly-developed railway system.
Two new railroads are under construction (see attached map – http://debka-net-weekly.com/pics/Iran_Iraq_0107.jpg) according to DEBKA-Net–Weekly‘s intelligence sources
One is a reverse V-shaped link between two southern Iranian towns, Khorramshahr on the Shatt al Arb waterway north of the oil port of Abadan, and the border town of Shalamncheh.
This link has an extension which crosses the border to the southern Iraqi town of Basra.
From Basra, existing Iraqi tracks run through Baghdad, Baquba, Kirkuk and Mosul. They cross into Syria up to Al Qamishli, whence existing branches reach the Syrian towns of Damascus and Latakia and the Lebanese town of Tripoli.
These new links afford Tehran its first direct rail link to Iraq as well as to the Mediterranean coastal towns of Syria and Lebanon.
The second new track further north connects the existing Tehran-Kermanshah section to Qasr Shrin and another new section heads into Iraq to hook up with the existing Baqubah-Kirkuk line, which after Mosul continues to Syria and Lebanon.
Kermanshah is the biggest Kurdish town in Tehran.
This expansion of Iran’s railway system is seen by military and intelligence sources as an iron mechanism for tightening Iran’s grip on Iraq, as part of its imperial designs for the entire Middle East. Israeli and Gulf sources fear that the new railroads into Iraq, Syria and Lebanon will haul speeded up arms consignments and troops into all three of Iran’s neighbors.
The new hook-ups therefore pose a strategic threat to American positions in Iraq and the Levant, Saudi and Gulf interests and directly menace Israel.
At one of the Syrian rail terminuses, Latakia, the Russians are building a big naval base. The new rail links would boost the Latakia facility as a major hub for the military activities of Russia, Iran and Syria in the eastern Mediterranean.
Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki along for the ride
US intelligence circles connect Russian president Vladimir Putin‘s decision to sell Syria the highly advanced S-300PMU2 anti-air missile system with Iranian financing (See DEBKA-Net-Weekly 284, of Jan. 5) to this plan. The new hardware is meant not only to defend Damascus but also the Latakia naval base, Iranian command centers in Syria and the spanking new Iranian railroad pushing into Syria.
Work on laying the Khorramshah-Shalamncheh segment leading to Basra is advancing apace. The Iranian-Iraqi border town of Shalamncheh has always been a smuggling center – during the Saddam Hussein era too – for fighters, arms and stolen goods moving back and forth between the countries. By early February, the Iranian construction crews should have laid the track up to the border and be ready to add further sections in Iraq. The plan has been approved by the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki. The new sections are 51 km long, of which 15 km will transit Iranian territory and 35 km Iraq.
The cost of this section is $65 million, a trifling amount when weighed against the effect achieved of integrating Iraq into Tehran’s imperial schemes.
The northern section which heads into Iraqi Kurdistan is less well advanced.
Engineers are working on the final plans for connecting northern Iran with northern Iraq and Baghdad through Qasr Shirin and Baquba. According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources, by building this line, Iran will establish a fact: All the rail traffic from Iran to Iraq will transit the two Iraqi cities of most interest to Tehran: Baghdad and Basra.
Both Iran and Syria will benefit from direct rail links for the convenient haulage of troops, heavy weapons systems including missiles and tanks and oil, a worrying prospect for Washington and Jerusalem.
A senior Israel source told DEBKA-Net-Weekly: “This is not just a direct rail link through from Iran and Syria, but a transport system connecting Iran and Hizballah.”
A glance at the attached map shows the evolving grid.
From the Syrian Kurdish town of Al Qamishli, the railroad forks three two then three ways to Latakia, Tall Kalkh and on to Tripoli.
The northern Lebanese port of Tripoli has always lived under Syrian intelligence and military jackboot, governed by pro-Syrian Sunni Muslim and Maronite Christian clans who work closely with Hizballah.