The Türkiye-Iraq Development Road Project is an important alternative that could prove to be more efficient as the escalating Israeli-Palestinian conflict causes concern about the new India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) project, according to an analyst.
“The Türkiye-Iraq Development Road Project is a significant alternative initiative in terms of its scope and characteristics,” Md. Nazmul Islam, a political science professor at Ankara Yildirim Beyazit University, told Anadolu.
The project’s “homogeneous nature” provides numerous alternative opportunities for global actors, particularly those interested in this established option, said Islam.
The security challenges stemming from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are considered potential threats to the viability, feasibility and long-term sustainability of the IMEC project.
The question remains on the agenda as one of the middle points of the IMEC is planned to be in Israel, making the current spiraling escalation in the region a cause for concern regarding the project.
The IMEC was unveiled at the G-20 summit in New Delhi in September. It aims to connect India to Europe with a route that runs through the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and Greece.
While the countries signing the memorandum did not make a binding financial commitment, they agreed to prepare an "action plan" for the creation of the corridor within two months.
When considering this initiative, one noteworthy advantage of the Türkiye-Iraq Development Road Project is “the presence of an existing railway line that extends south from Mosul,” Islam said, adding that efforts to revamp railways and stations in Iraq are in progress.
Another important aspect is “Türkiye’s strong relations with Erbil,” which could enhance the project’s resilience, even in the face of internal political turmoil in Iraq, he noted.
“Additionally, Türkiye’s regional strategy to integrate the project with Qatar and the UAE has the potential to significantly enhance its long-term viability.”
Islam stressed that the project’s strategic location also highlights its crucial role within global transportation networks, as demonstrated by the Suez Canal crisis in 2021.
Global markets were faced with supply disruptions after a 400-meter-long container ship, the Ever Given, blocked the Suez Canal on March 23, impeding all waterway traffic for six days.
With its 745-mile railway and road network, the Türkiye-Iraq Development Road Project is expected to connect the planned Grand Al-Faw Port in the Gulf to Türkiye.
The estimated cost of the project is $17 billion, with the completion of the first phase scheduled by 2028.
The project is planned to be completed in three stages by 2028, 2033 and 2050 and will open Iraq to the world through Türkiye.
This initiative places Türkiye at the center stage of regional interconnectivity, particularly as Europe has been seeking new energy partners since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war.
The project facilitates the diversification of energy markets, providing European countries with more alternatives.
Türkiye is pivotal in this connectivity, serving as a distribution hub for raw materials and goods coming through Iraq.
Prospects for cooperation between Development Road, IMEC projects
Islam also touched on the potential for collaboration between the Türkiye-Iraq Development Road Project and the IMEC, saying “in the short term, it appears that both initiatives will compete in the region.”
“However, to pursue a win-win strategy and conduct a cost-benefit analysis, it is highly likely that cooperation between these two projects will yield greater success, not only in the region but also beyond,” he noted.
While there may be some political differences among the actors in the IMEC initiative, they all recognize the significant importance of connecting with Ankara for trade and security, Islam said.
Although the current Israeli-Palestinian crisis may temporarily hinder collaboration, it is expected to create more opportunities in the future for both projects’ stakeholders to work together in pursuit of their trade and economic interests, he noted.
“Moreover, the indispensability of Türkiye for the IMEC is evident; without Türkiye’s involvement, the project would lack crucial integration points that bridge the gap between the East and West,” he said.
While the IMEC may achieve some initial success, it is likely to face substantial challenges in ensuring the long-term sustainability of its policies, particularly in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions, according to Islam
Islam underlined that both initiatives hold promise for the future of regional trade routes, especially in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, contributing to business growth, job opportunities and the seamless exchange of digital technology and vital intelligence.
“To realize these benefits, a shared commitment to common interests is essential,” he added.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasized the significance of the Development Road Project during his bilateral meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and at the UN General Assembly in September.
Initially named the Dry Canal but renamed as the Development Road Project during a meeting between Erdogan and al-Sudani in March, it is considered the foundation of a non-oil sustainable economy.
Addressing the annual UN General Assembly in New York on Sept. 19, Erdogan said Türkiye hopes to advance integration in its region with a road and rail project linking its southeastern border with southern Iraq.
"We hope to further strengthen regional integration with the Development Road project," he said.
Speaking at the Development Road Conference held in Baghdad on May 27 by the Iraqi government with the participation of neighboring countries including Türkiye and representatives from the Gulf region, al-Sudani said the project would change reality in terms of employment and financial leverage and increase the value of the gross domestic product (GDP).