Your Middle East
Last updated: 27 January, 2013

Grand visions for the biggest project in Iraqi history

The third biggest port in the world. That is the ambition of the Faw Port south of Basra. In an interview with Monocle, Captain Omran Radhi, director of Iraqi ports, elaborated on the grand vision.

Located on a peninsula once occupied by Iranian forces, the $6 billion port would ship cargo coming into Faw across land, via Turkey and into Europe. From China to Germany, the trip would only take five days, according to the article. By building a railway from Basra to Turkey, the port has a huge advantage, making the more costly ship routes round the Horn of Africa and through the Suez Canal less attractive.

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There is definitely an America touch to the project. Along with the vast port expansion, Basra has plans for a 65,000-seat stadium and “awesome” McDonald’s and Burger King outlets. Yet, somewhat surprising is the relatively high amount of local workers and companies involved. Although US architects stand behind the stadium project, an Iraqi contraction partner – the Abdullah al-Jiburi General Contracting Company – has been hired. According to Captain Radhi, the US transport minister also seems ecstatic: “When I explained our plan he told me this will be a revolution!” In total, the project is estimated to cost some $50 billion – making it the biggest in Iraq’s history.

But, what is not mentioned in the Monocle article is that tensions are bubbling underneath the Iraq-Turkey relationship. Iraqi energy officials on Sunday signed an oil exploration deal with a Kuwait-led group, finalising an agreement that was altered to expel a Turkish firm, TPAO, due to “non-technical issues”.

This was one of several signs lately of worsening ties between Baghdad and Ankara. The two countries have been at odds over the Syrian conflict and Iraq has publicly urged Turkey to hand over fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who has been sentenced to death in Baghdad on charges of running a death squad.

Should these tensions continue to soar, the planned inter-state railway might be in jeopardy.

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