Victory in Iraq: The Baghdad Metro

Eighteen months ago, the capital of Iraq worried more about whether it would survive than traffic control. Now that victory over terrorism and sectarian violence has all but arrived, Baghdad has big plans for its future.  While planning for more basic infrastructural improvements, the mayor has also unveiled a new underground public-transit plan that would link the various sectarian enclaves and improve movement throughout the city:

A YEAR ago it would have been unthinkable. After all, it was a city where driving to work became a life-or-death decision and where residents were cooped in enclaves amid murder and mayhem.

But the Mayor of Baghdad has surprised everyone by announcing plans for an underground rail network that would literally carve a swathe through the city’s sectarian lines.

If investors sign up, the world’s most violent capital will soon have a $US3 billion ($A4.6 billion) metro. Mayor Sabir al-Issawi said money had been set aside in next year’s budget for a feasibility study.

And if if goes ahead, the Iraqi Government has earmarked money that it says could build most of the two mooted rail lines without private help. Even the country’s optimists were last night calling the plan ambitious, but lauding its audacity.

Iraq needs to fix its sewer and electrical services before attempting anything on this scale, but the plan demonstrates an optimism about the future that has erupted in its capital.  They’re already planning a traditional surface-level commuter train to help alleviate car traffic, which has grown overnight into a major headache.  Roads and bridges closed due to violence have reopened, and people are once again on the move as Baghdad returns to life.

Saddam Hussein had originally planned to build an underground metro, or so he claimed.  He commissioned plans for the project in the 1970s, which formed the basis of the new design, with plenty of modern modifications.  Like most tyrants, his big plans came to naught when he threw his country into a series of disastrous wars that consumed the necessary resources for them.

Representative governments have to deliver on their promises.  That accounts for at least part of the optimism seen in Iraq, and for the sudden outbreak of big dreaming by Iraqis.  They have their future in their own hands for the first time in decades, and the sudden liberation has fueled their imaginations.

This, indeed, is what victory looks like.