Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Drought Weakens Iraqi Security

Today's New York Times front page story highlights how droughts are impacting in Iraq. The article describes how the Euphrates, which irrigates much of Iraq's farming, has dried up and discusses how the drought is playing out politically:
bitterness over Iraq’s water threatens to be a source of tension for months or even years to come between Iraq and its neighbors...Along the river, there is no shortage of resentment at the Turks and Syrians. But there is also resentment at the Americans, Kurds, Iranians and the Iraqi government, all of whom are blamed. Scarcity makes foes of everyone. The Sunni areas upriver seem to have enough water, Mr. Joda observed, a comment heavy with implication.
Water scarcity weakens Iraq's external sovereignty because it's dependent on Turkish and Syrian dams for the Euphrates' water level. Iraq's internal stability is hampered by rising tensions over water between the historically hostile sectarian groups. Even if Iraq's water scarcity actually results from poor government management as the article suggests, the mere perception that particular groups, such as the Sunni's, have unequal access to water can still fuel conflict and instability. Reduced river flow hurts Iraq's agriculture yields too with wheat/barley production declining 51%. Now, the scenario laid out in March by the International Institute for Sustainable Development's report on climate change and the Middle East seems all the more dangerous. It states:
[Perceptions of water scarcity] could increase the chances of the ‘pre-emptive’ seizure of resources. This could be in any number of different directions: by Israeli settlers in the oPt [occupied Palestinian territory], between Turkey, Syria and Iraq over the division of the Euphrates and so on. In a sense climate change conflict could become a self-fulfilling prophecy—the expectation of coming environmental wars might imply that the way to deal with shrinking resources is to increase military control over them.
Political leaders must recognize how climate contributes to instability in the already vulnerable regions of the world.

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