Soleimani cuts a ‘path to the sea’
Beirut- The land bridges that Iran is building across Iraq to Syria would greatly extend Tehran’s control of the region and dramatically change the strategic balance in the Middle East as the United States disengages from the region.
It is largely the brainchild of Major-General Qassem Soleimani, commander of al-Quds Force, which spearheads the Islamic Republic’s expansionist ambitions, fulfilling the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s edict to spread his Islamic Revolution throughout the Muslim world.
The project envisages at least two corridors running approximately 1,400km from Iran’s western border through the Euphrates and Tigris valleys to the Syrian-held sector of the Golan Heights in southern Syria, a strategic plateau that has been occupied by Israel since 1967.
The northern route was planned to run through the frontier town of Jalawla in Iraq’s Shia-dominated Diyala province east to the town of Shirqat, then push into Syria through the mountainous Tal Afar and Sinjar regions, currently held by pro-Iranian Kurdish factions.
Recent gains by US-supported factions in north-eastern Syria forced Soleimani to divert this route 225km south to avoid the American forces battling the Islamic State (ISIS).
That corridor will now run through Syria’s energy-rich Deir ez-Zor province to across the eastern desert to the ancient city of Palmyra and then to the Lebanese border, ensuring Hezbollah of an uninterrupted supply of weapons.
Iranian-backed regime forces have captured part of ISIS-held Deir ez-Zor city in a major offensive and expect to drive the jihadists out completely.
One leg of the route, Syrian officials said, would extend to the Mediterranean port of Latakia, a stronghold of the Damascus regime, which the Iranians would develop as a maritime link and additional supply line, allowing them to avoid the Arabian Gulf dominated by the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.
Iranians call this route “the path to the sea.”