War for Water? Syria, Iraq and Turkey will next Fight for Rivers, Report Says
BY: TOM O’CONNOR
The next war in the Middle East could be fought over water as Iraq, Syria and Turkey scramble to assert claims to two vital rivers that run through the region, according to a new report.
Nabil al-Samman, a Syrian expert on international waters, made the case for an upcoming “water war” in an article published Friday by Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat. The article defines the term as being used to refer in the Mediterranean to “the use of water as a weapon in order to control its sources, or the diversion of water as a commercial commodity controlled by powerful upstream states for political ends.” The piece outlines a decades-long history of difficult relations and devastating conflicts that have set the stage for a potential upcoming crisis between Syria, Iraq and Turkey.
“When the sounds of guns and war drums fade in Syria and Iraq, new tensions may arise because of water, especially in their conflict with Turkey, from which the Euphrates and Tigris rivers flow,” the report read.
In eastern Syria’s Euphrates River Valley, drought and mismanaged government policies helped fuel support for protests that eventually morphed into a 2011 nationwide insurrection backed by the West, Turkey and Gulf Arab states. The subsequent insurgency and Syrian military’s campaign backed, by Russia and Iran, to retake the country has left critical water infrastructure in ruins. Across the border in western Iraq, 15 consecutive years of war and insurgency following the 2003 U.S. invasion have left a similarly dire situation, but Turkey retains a powerful, controversial hold on the region’s natural resources.