Cablegate: Iraq's Railroad

DE RUEHGB #2724 2280217
P 160217Z AUG 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. SUMMARY: According to a July 25 report by the United States Army
Corp of Engineers (USACE), the Iraqi Republic Railway (IRR) is
assessed as functional and currently transports grain, petroleum and
refined oil products in southern Iraq, cargo from Syria, excluding
Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) and a limited passenger service from Baghdad to
Hilla. Unfortunately, apart from these limited and local uses, the
IRR remains severely underutilized due to significant security
threats to infrastructure and employees. END SUMMARY.

Iraqi Republic Railway

2. The Iraqi Republic Railway (IRR) system, comprising of five
principal routes and 111 railway stations, is one of the most
extensive in the region. It consists of approximately 2,400
kilometers of track. Nearly all of Iraq's major cities lie on or
near the rail network, and a number of important mines and
industrial centers are also served by the railway.

Problems Plaguing all Main Routes

3. Sabotage and looting efforts against trains; interdiction of
military, commercial and humanitarian supplies; Improvised Explosive
Device (IED) attacks against rail lines and infrastructure; and
murder and intimidation of railroad workers and their families
thwart maximum utilization and further development of the IRR.

4. A key function of the northern route is movement of Heavy Fuel
Oil (HFO) from the Bayji Refinery north into Syria with a final
destination in Turkey. Threats against IRR personnel and their
families; however, have halted rail shipments for at least three
consecutive months already this year. Other northern route rail
operations are functioning, moving mostly consumer goods. For
example, the Mosul to Rabiyah lines are transporting cargo from

5. Along the southern route, an important commodity moved is grain.
Oil from the southern provinces is transported to the port of Umm
Qasr. Petroleum products are also moved along this route from the
Doura Refinery to the Mussayib Power Plant and other destinations.
The southern route faces real security threats as evidenced by
several IED attacks this year in February and again in July. The
attack damaged the Latifiya Bridge, near Iskandariya. The bridge has
since been repaired, but to substandard conditions, prohibiting
trains from operating at normal speeds when traversing the bridge.

6. The western route faces several impediments. Due to track damage
in the Ramadi and Falluja areas, service from Baghdad to Haqlaniya
is non-existent. The IRR has solicited bids to engage contractors
to repair the tracks, but an award has yet to happen. Additionally,
transit by rail west from Baghdad requires using the Baghdad to
Bayji leg and then the Bayji- Haqlaniya- Al Qaim legs. Continuity
has been interrupted by blockages at Samarra and Barwanna.
Currently, we understand that trains are not permitted to pass over
the bridge at Samarra because of threats to a dam sharing the same
route over which a ighway and rail line are carried.

Overcoming Railway Problems

7. Efforts to establish sufficient security are underway by the
Iraqi Army (IA) and other security forces. A microwave
communications system is being constructed for the IRR that will be
relatively impervious to insurgent activity. Under the current
railroad signaling system, copper wires have been stripped and radio
and electronic signal equipment have been stolen, often times
rendering the system useless.

9. The USG has undertaken 97 railroad projects valued at nearly $35
million. Ninety-six of the projects have been completed leaving 1
currently in progress. Al Muthanna province has received the
largest amount of that funding, slightly more than $10 million. The
desert, western province of Al Anbar; however, has received the
greatest number of projects in any given province - 25.


10. The railway has traditionally been an integral component of the
transportation infrastructure in Iraq. The IRR, if fully
functional, would help to create economic stability through
passenger and freight movement. As the young Government of Iraq
(GOI) endeavors towards a secure and stable country, the IRR's
potential hinges on the security of railroad personnel and
elimination of direct attacks on railroad infrastructure.

© Scoop Media

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