The idea of developing transportation routes in order to boost the trade of the Persian Gulf and make the strategic Strait of Hormuz weak and ineffective was formed among the member states of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council. In order to realize this idea, the rail transport corridor on the margin of the Persian Gulf has been keyed since 2016 in the form of launching the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) rail network. According to the agreement between the Council member states, each of these countries was supposed to build and complete their rail network independently. Finally, after the completion of all national lines, the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council network should be launched by connecting the national rail networks of these countries. In this way, an Arab railway network would be formed, which would connect all the six member countries of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council through a railway line of 2177 kilometers.
Designing such a plan for the construction and development of logistics infrastructure is one of the most targeted and important actions of the Arab countries to move towards sustainable development in the region while bypassing the Strait of Hormuz and thus reducing the role of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the waters of the Persian Gulf regarding the oil exports of these countries to Europe. However, all member states of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council could not advance this ambitious project according to the plan. The spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the dependence of the economy of the countries of the region on oil and the decrease in the price of this energy source, the lack of coordination and political convergence among the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, and the failure to achieve a single legal regime, which is necessary for the establishment of any international corridor, were among reasons that caused the Persian Gulf Rail Corridor not to proceed according to the plan and not reach the opening stage. Of course, the situation of all the countries of this Council is not the same; the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia were two successful countries in this project, which were able to formulate a systematic framework for their rail transportation during this period and achieve significant success.
Based on this, the logistical preparation of these two Arab countries in the Persian Gulf region, on the one hand, and the membership of one and the desire of the other to the Abraham Accords, caused the United States and the Israeli regime to develop a plan to form a new corridor in order to limit and isolate the Islamic Republic of Iran and China at the same time. The idea of connecting the region by rail was proposed by the Israeli regime at the I2U2 summit (a summit consisting of the United States, Israel, the UAE, and India, which was established in late 2021) in 2021, and it was supported by the Biden administration, until at the G20 summit held in early September 2023, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, with the support of the United States, announced on the East-West Sea-Rail Corridor that will establish trade transit between European countries, Israel, Jordan, the Arabs of the Persian Gulf and India. A huge project for the transit of goods that starts from India passes through the UAE and Saudi Arabia and finally reaches European countries by connecting to Jordan and the Israeli regime. The apparent and operational purpose of this corridor is to connect South Asia to the Middle East and to develop trade and economy between the countries along the route.
However, this project also pursues various political goals. This corridor is one of the initiatives of the United States of America to maintain its influence in the Middle East region and, at the same time, to prevent the increase of Chinese influence in this region. In fact, since the West Asian region is a key part of China's "One Belt, One Road" corridor, the American government, especially during the Biden presidency, is trying to reduce the strategic value of China's plans by proposing this new corridor. Another important goal of this corridor is to remove the Islamic Republic of Iran from a key transit route and reduce the dependence of global transportation on the strategic Strait of Hormuz. This takes the usual tactic of closing the Strait of Hormuz in times of crisis from the Islamic Republic of Iran (although the Islamic Republic has never seriously used this tactic and has always been bound by the freedom of navigation and international transit) and it turns the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf and of course the Israeli regime into a safe highway and the center of gravity of international trade.
Based on this, it seems that the new corridor is serious harm to the interests and national security of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and therefore, it is necessary for the authorities of our country to take measures to deal with the negative effects caused by the formation of this corridor, some of which are:
- Taking advantage of the potential of normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia and developing diplomacy and rapid and comprehensive negotiations with the authorities of this country in order to distance it from the Abraham Accords and develop relations with the Israeli regime, as well as persuading this country to preserve its interests and observe red lines of Islamic Republic of Iran in the region;
- Wide negotiation in order to strengthen the plan to connect the Arabian Peninsula through Iran to the North-South Corridor for a profitable two-way relationship with Eurasia, Caucasus, Central Asia, and China;
- Planning and defining specific strategies in order to use the large capacity of the coasts and ports of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia for bilateral transit connections;
- The negotiation for the bilateral transit connection of Dammam Port and Imam Khomeini Port in order to secure the common interests of both Iran and Saudi Arabia;
- Using political and legal tools to persuade and put pressure on India to fulfill its promises and obligations towards Chabahar port;
- The negotiation and cooperation with China to reach a common solution to confront the operationalization of this corridor and realize its anti-Iranian and anti-Chinese goals.
Based on this, it seems that although the formation of the new agreement of the G20 countries on the formation of the new transatlantic corridor has narrowed the geopolitical and geostrategic space for Iran to some extent, the doors of diplomacy are always open, and it is possible to negotiate and consult for countries. The point here is that one should not be indifferent to these developments and allow the anti-Iranian plans to be implemented and operational without cost and trouble for the designing countries and their partners. It is necessary to negotiate with the member countries of this agreement separately and quickly and in accordance with the policies and goals of each of them, and they should be informed of the costs that their possible damage to Iran's interests will cause.
Dr. Mohammad Mahdi Mazaheri, university professor
(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)