Iraq has approved the so-called "Road to Development" (also known as the Dry Channel) project, which will link Basra in southern Iraq to the Turkish border via a rail and road network. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the project could become the "new Silk Road" of the region.
Once completed, the Iraqi port of Faw, near the Persian Gulf, will be linked to the port of Mersin in Türkiye. This will require the development of the Faw port, which is currently under construction, in order to become one of the largest container terminals in the world.
The rail corridor linking the port of Faw to the Turkish border is expected to cost more than 18 billion euros and will be completed by 2038. The Iraqi section of the railway will run for around 1,200 kilometres - through the cities of Divaniyah, Basra, Karbala, Najaf and Mosul - before reaching Türkiye. The route will be open to passenger and freight traffic and will be electrified to allow high-speed trains. Initially, the freight trains will have a capacity of 3.5 million containers and 22 million tonnes of bulk cargo per year, which will be gradually increased to 7.5 million containers and 33 million tonnes per year. This will require major infrastructure improvements, such as new power lines. The rail project will be carried out by the French company Alstom.
To make the venture operational, the Iraqi side must complete the construction of the port of Faw, about 100 kilometres south of Basra, by the deadline. The foundation stone for the port was laid by former Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi back in 2021.
As for the plans, the first formal proposal was made in 2010, but the first phase, which included the construction of five main piers, was not completed until 2021. The second phase will see the construction of a container terminal in the area by 2025. The third and final phase of the project involves the construction of around 100 piers.
The construction of the port of Faw and the creation of a railway line between Iraq and Türkiye are of major importance for the economic development of the region. The project will increase the volume of trade between Iraq and other countries and will allow the country, which has rich oil and gas reserves, to increase its energy exports. It should also be remembered that the construction and operation of the motorway, railway and port will create a significant number of jobs, which will contribute to improving employment. Furthermore, Iraq could become a major player in the region because of the logistical advantages offered by the port of Faw, which could also strengthen the country's geopolitical position.
The author is a researcher at the Eurasia Center