Yes, there really were train robbers, but it's easier to put the Iraqi equivalent of Pinkerton guards on one train than to patrol the entire road.  "The driver and conductor assure that the tracks running through Anbar province are now clear of mines planted by Islamic State and of collapsed bridges the group blew up when it marauded through western and northern Iraq in 2014."

Local descriptions of snarled traffic and crumbling infrastructure ought give pause to commuters stewing on North American expressways.
Regular passengers include unemployed youth looking for work, a perennial problem in Iraq where demonstrations over lack of jobs, water and power turned violent in the southern city of Basra in September.

“I had a job interview with an NGO today in Baghdad, but I’m not holding out much hope,” said Yassin Jasim, a recent graduate with a degree in medicine. “I try to get casual work in Falluja, but there’s little and it’s low pay.”
It's a small beginning. The hopeful speak of restoring rail service to the Syrian border. At one time, even after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, there was through service to the Asian side of Istanbul.

Tracks buried in sand?  Railroaders have learned about that in dune country, the same way their counterparts in colder climes deal with snow.

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