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Iran and China Tied by Threads of Steel


Global politics and global economics are interwoven. The way the warhawks talk about Iran, one would think it is just another primitive society. It isn’t.

IRAN: The Minister of Roads & Urban Development attended a ceremony to officially launch work to electrify the Tehran - Mashhad line on February 1. The first phase of the upgrading project is expected to take 24 months to complete.

Electrification and infrastructure upgrades will raise the top speed of passenger trains from 160 km/h to 200 km/h, and allow journey times on the 926 km route to be cut from around 12 h to 6 h. Capacity will be increased with a view to raising annual traffic from 13 million to 20 million passengers.

A second phase of upgrading could enable tilting trains to run at up to 250 km/h and raise annual capacity to 50 million passengers.

Iran is building first-world transport infrastructure. The level of service and carrying capacity show that the project is more than a nod to some dictator’s ego. There are ordinary people in Iran, commuting to work, building lives. And they’re powering their efforts with electricity.

Setting aside, momentarily, the foaming tirades of Iran’s current President, the country needs to generate more power. There is sensible and reasonable cause for expanding their nuclear industry. It isn’t all about building bombs.

The construction that has just begun on the Tehran-Mashhad line is part of a larger program:

IRAN: An agreement worth around US$13bn for China to construct eight lines was announced by the Construction & Development of Transportation Infrastructures Co after Chinese officials visited Tehran during February.

A joint office has been set up to manage the project and associated technology transfer, but no dates were announced for the start or end of work.

Meanwhile, national railway RAI and Russian Railways have agreed to establish a joint working group to develop proposals and a timescale for electrifying the Tehran - Bafgh line. In 2009 RZD began work to electrify the 48 km Tabriz - Azarshahr line under a contract signed the previous year (RG 8.09 p50).

A tripartite memorandum of understanding was signed by RZD, RAI and Azerbaijan Railways on February 9 under which a joint venture is to be established to build the Rasht - Astara link across the Iran-Azerbaijan border, providing a through route between Russia and Iran via Azerbaijan.

Chinese industry and Chinese engineers are building Iran’s railroads. The US and European competitors were excluded from the opportunity. There is a domestic cost to sanctions and trade embargoes. In trying to harm the Iranian government, Western powers harm their own people.

The Iranian people, meanwhile, build business and personal relationships with Chinese and Russians. It’s valuable to recognize that the rest of the world doesn’t need us. When the US government decides to snip a thread in the fabric of global commerce, another power will eagerly tie the loose ends together.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but an interventionist policy leads to isolation.