A news website in Tehran says the Islamic Republic is eying a highway project that would link Tehran to Beirut, in a grandiose plan to reach the Mediterranean.
Fararu, a prominent pro-reform website Thursday published an article by Mohammad Mehdi Hatami, the website's economic correspondent, that Iran is thinking of using its influence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to build a highway to connect Tehran to the Mediterranean Sea via Iraq and Syria.
Iran has even given a name to the highway: The Resistance Highway. However, Fararu's economic correspondent argued that this is not a task to be accomplished easily as it can change the geopolitics of the region.
Fararu also noted that that Iran is now seriously thinking of building the highway as Iran and Saudi Arabia's rivalry over supremacy in the region is almost at its peak.
Iranian military commanders and hardline politicians have never concealed the Islamic Republic's interest in the Mediterranean region. Many of the pro-regime media and officials take it for granted in their rhetoric that Iran needs to have or already has a foothold in Syria's Mediterranean shores.
Iran is revealing the ambition at a time when US sanctions have ruined its economy, its influence in Iraq and Syria is debatable partly for the same reason and its influence in Lebanon is effectively challenged by Saudi Arabia.
Iranian website Khabar Online in September 2019 quoted IRGC news sourcesas saying that "Iran's access to long-range ballistic missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometers has left no safe place for US warships from the Arabian Sea to the Mediterranean." The website added that "Foreign players, particularly the United States have received Iran's message that the Mediterranean region is within reach of Iran's missiles."
In late October, Defa (Defense) Press, a news outlet linked to the Iranian military forces, quoted Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, a former commander of the IRGC, who is currently Khamenei's top military adviser, as saying: "Iran's strategic depth is stretched from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea."
Even a year before that, IRGC's acting commander in Lorestan province, General Habibollah Tavakoli saidthat Iran's Western borders are no longer next to Iraq, but they are located in the Mediterranean Sea where Tehran's enemies have been stopped.
All these claims about Iran's strategic depth are in defiance of sanctions and international isolation that have paralyzed and shrank Iran's economy, Fararu noted in an unusually candid tone for a publication operating under Iran’s strict state control. The website’s editor, Mohammad Hossein Khoshvaght is said to be a relative of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
This comes while other regional players are also eying a new emerging situation in the region. Fararu says the emergence of the Taliban and the recent meeting between the United Arab Emirate Emirate's Foreign Minister and Syrian leader Bashar Assad are the signs of this emerging situation.
Iranian officials often complain that despite spending blood and treasure in Syria, the Islamic Republic is not benefitting economically from its presence there and Russians control the lion’s share of influence. There are speculations that the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad might try to reduce Iran’s presence.
Nevertheless, according to Fararu, the plans for building the highway are outlined by a think tank at the Imam Sadeq University in Tehran where most of the Raisi Administration's cabinet ministers come from. However, it is difficult to differentiate between practical ideas and wishful thinking, particularly because the same think tank has failed to solve any of Iran's problems.