Soleimani cuts a ‘path to the sea’

Sunday 10/09/2017
Commander of Iran’s al-Quds Force Qassem Soleimani in Tehran.

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.”