Iran’s Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper has reported that the Iranian government is planning to build a highway connecting Tehran with cities in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The ambitious project, if it comes to fruition, is expected to serve as Tehran’s main transit route for exports.
According to the media outlet, Iranian authorities have already signed bilateral agreements on the construction of a 1,700 km long land route with authorities in Baghdad and Damascus.
The highway will connect Tehran with ports in Syria and Lebanon as well as with their respective capitals of Damascus and Beirut. An Iranian construction company will execute the project, which will be implemented over five years with as yet unspecified costs, for the purpose of transferring goods from Iran to the Mediterranean through Iraqi, Lebanese and Syrian ports. It will also serve Iran’s tourism ambitions, and is expected to bring about 8-12 million tourists to Iran.
Russia is thought to be part of the deal. Sources say that the deal includes allowing Russia to dominate the oil fields at Dir ez-Zor in Syria, for allowing Iran to expand the highway from Tehran to Syria. It is also expected to be used primarily as a transit route for Iranian goods to the ports in the Mediterranean Sea for their subsequent export. The project’s budget has not yet been disclosed, but according to latest estimates, it is expected to pay off in five years after the highway’s launch.
Chris Devonshire-Ellis of Dezan Shira & Associates comments: “We are nearing the end of the Syrian civil war, and reconstruction is now on the agenda. Iran and Russia are now the respective regional players, and the Shia Islamic faction has emerged as dominant. One hopes that ill-advised Western military involvement in the region will cease and all parties can now concentrate on peace and trade rather than conflict. Iran has a crucial part to play in the logistics and transport routes of the new economic Silk Road and it will be able to assert authority over what has been a troubled region.”
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