Posted by: Frangipani | January 22, 2012

Troubled waters?

Water diversion from the Euphrates in Syria (photo by G.M. MacDonald, UCLA)

Oil is not the only resource that crosses international boundaries and can be used as a force for peace or war. I found this on a US Armenian site:

Turkish relations with Iraq and Syria have soured over the water rights of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers because of Turkey’s handling of these resources. An increasing number of dams, hydroelectric power plants and irrigation projects have been constructed within the context of the Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP) supposedly to harness the energy of Turkey’s water resources. But Turkey is then seeking to sell some of the waters. Several critics of GAP say “the more Turkey utilizes these rivers, the less water there is to flow to the downstream riparian states of Syria and Iraq.” UN Representative and NGO worker Imane Abd El Al was not optimistic about a Turkish proposal to export dammed water from Turkey to Iraqi and Syrian farmers in exchange for oil or money. “We’re talking about Mesopotamia here.” Importing water to the “cradle of civilization”, she argued, is absurd, as is the idea of treating water as a commodity rather than a right.

As Glen MacDonald (UCLA) points out on his blog, the salinity of the Euphrates doubles from entering Syria from Turkey to leaving Syria and entering Iraq. Recent droughts in Syria have seen ever increasing water pumping activities in Syria from the Euphrates and less water arriving in Iraq.

The Tigris and Euphrates join to form the Shatt Al Arab waterway that flows through Iraq to the Gulf. The final course of the rivers has changed somewhat in history, and as I end this somewhat meandering blog entry, I note that the waterway changed the course of history for the Kurdish people in Iraq. From The Kurds in Iraq by Kerim Yildiz (p.27): “The Shah of Iran established a relationship with the Iraqi Kurds when he assisted in the Kurdish struggle against Saddam Hussein.” However, when Saddam agreed in 1975 to give Iran some control of the Shat al-Arab waterway, the Shah of Iran cut off all military support to Iraqi Kurds. This left the Kurds vulnerable, enabling Saddam to commence his military campaign against them…” And the rest is history.
It would be ironic if it was water that again changed the course of history in this region.

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