Repairs are underway on the war-ravaged 200km long M20 road linking Deir Ez-Zour in eastern Syrian to Palmyra, DEBKAfile’s exclusive military sources reveal. This is the first road project undertaken by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) to consummate the transnational land corridor Iran has opened up from Tehran to the Mediterranean via Iraq and Syria. This important section of the corridor starts at a point near Syrian Abu Kamal and connects to Iraq’s Highway No. 1 and Baghdad to the east, and to the main Palmyra-Damascus highway to the west. When completed, the M20 will enable Iran to run military convoys from Iraq to Syria and on to Lebanon. (See DEBKAfile map)
Our sources report that the IRGC has already sent at least three test convoys through the road in the last few days, each of 15-20 military trucks with tarpaulin sheets concealing their freight. Their purpose was to find out if they were under US and Israeli surveillance and whether any attempt would be made to interfere with the traffic using the new route. But so far, neither the US nor the Israeli air forces have reacted to stop it.
The road was badly damaged in the fighting raging in the past six months to dislodge the Islamic State’s grip. But after the jihadists withdrew to western Iraq and no more than a few hundred were left in Syria, the IRGC got down to the repair work. Our sources report that the Guards’ construction branch Khatam al-Anbnia is employing Syrian firms for the project. It will have only two lanes and broad wayside bays for heavy convoys to make way for traffic coming from the opposite direction.
When the work is finished, Iran’s transnational land corridor will have gained access not just to the Mediterranean but to a vital foothold for keeping Lebanon under constant IRGC oversight and control.