This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Iran's Real and Most Pressing Existential Problem

People protest near the University of Tehran on Dec 30 in this picture obtained from social media. Iran is the latest example of a country where a water crisis, long in the making, has fed popular discontent. Photo: Twitter/@kasra_nouri/via Reuters
People protest near the University of Tehran on Dec 30 in this picture obtained from social media. Iran is the latest example of a country where a water crisis, long in the making, has fed popular discontent. Photo: Twitter/@kasra_nouri/via Reuters
"[Water stress is slated to become] a growing factor in the world's hot spots and conflict areas."
"With escalating global population  and the impact of a changing climate, we see the challenges of water stress rising with time."
CNA report, Arlington, Virginia

"Water is not going to bring down the government [of Iran]. But it's a component -- in some towns, a significant component -- of grievances and frustrations."
"[Twelve of the country's 31 provinces] will entirely exhaust their aquifers within the next fifty years."
David Michel, analyst, Stimson Center, Washington

"Twenty-five percent of the total water that is withdrawn from aquifers, rivers and lakes [in Iran] exceeds the amount that can be replenished [by nature]."
World Bank report
Egyptians enjoy a boat ride along the Nile River, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, May 28, 2013. (Photo credit: AP/Hassan Ammar)
Egyptians enjoy a boat ride along the Nile River, in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo credit: AP/Hassan Ammar)

Two scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology produced a study in 2015 predicting that at current rates of global warming, "many major cities in the region [of the Middle East] could exceed a tipping point for human survival". Scientists have long warned that diminishing supplies of fresh water across the globe will result in increased levels of conflict representing the desperation that deprived countries finding themselves without adequate water supplies bring to contest neighbours' supplies.

Most recently, a transborder water dispute has engaged both Egypt and Ethiopia as the Blue Nile is being harnessed by Ethiopia building a dam to ensure water retention, while Egypt is furious, claiming that Egypt's agriculture will be destroyed by the diversion prospects of the largest dam in Africa. Construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has seen Egypt threatening military strikes should its neighbour continue to ignore its protests.

And while Ethiopian officials stated that "the diversion of the Blue Nile will not affect Egypt's share of the water", Egyptian officials released a statement saying that "Egypt supports any development project for the Nile Basin countries, as long as it does not damage the downstream countries Egypt and Sudan." Egypt characterized Ethiopia's determination to divert the Nile as a plot hatched between it and Israel to deprive Egypt of water, bringing the spectre of food insufficiency to the country.

At the height of the controversy in 2013, Abdel Bari Atwan in the London-based Al Quds Al Arabi charged that "The construction of this dam… is the result of instigation by Israel. Avigdor Liberman, the Israeli foreign minister who threatened to bomb the Aswan dam and flood Egypt, led a delegation of 100 businessmen and engineers with expertise in the construction of dams to five (Nile Basin) African countries. This was poisonous for previous water arrangements. Now Israeli companies have signed contracts to take over energy distribution from the new dam. Israel is exploiting the collapse of Egypt and the hunger of its people."

The Islamic Republic of Iran is focusing on consolidating its influence and power in the Middle East in a Shiite crescent elbowing the Sunni majority Arab Middle East and Saudi Arabia aside to once again occupy the position Persia held in antiquity as the centre of Middle East power. With the advent of climate change and the very real and obvious changes that have been taking place worldwide, Iran stands out as one of those nations that will be the most adversely affected with a parched landscape due to water scarcity.

Even one of its own, a former Iranian agriculture minister, Issa Kalantari, stated at one time that the prospect of water scarcity would result in Iran becoming so harsh that 50 million Iranians would be persuaded by desperation in its lack, to voluntarily exile themselves from their country of birth. Water scarcity is increasingly making it more difficult for the theocratic government to deliver vital services to its population. A situation which, in part, spurred the recent widespread protests so concerning in their adamant rejection of the regime.

In the wake of the 1979 revolution, Iran purposed to become self-sufficient in food. Iranian water expert Kaveh Madani explained that the government then encouraged farmers to plant crops such as water-thirsty wheat, offering farmers cheap electricity and favourable wheat profits as an incentive to plant more water-intensive-need-grains and to achieve that, to extract increasing amounts of groundwater, a process leading inevitably to groundwater depletion

In rural areas, rivers were dammed across the country to divert water to areas considered key to curry favour with farmers. That had the result of shrinking many of Iran's lakes, including Lake Urmia, the region's largest, diminished in size now by close to 90 percent since the early 1970s, with no prospect of the lake recovering. Climate change has resulted in a future of a 25 percent decline in surface water runoff from rainfall and melting snow by 2030,

Summers are projected to become hotter by two to three degrees Celsius, should current warming rates prevail, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, while rain is expected to decline by ten percent. There is always Syria's example, should any have doubts about what lies in store. The drought experienced by Syria from 2006 to 2009 was responsible for a mass migration from country to city and collapsed employment for the young.

In 2011 street protests erupted and were crushed by the Shiite government of Bashar al-Assad. A half-million dead Sunni Syrians resulted from that initial attempt by Syrians to broker a more even situation for themselves in the spirit of sectarian equality in their nation of birth. As for Iran, it would do well to remove its ayatollahs and mullahs from power, sweep away the Republican Guard Corps, make peace with Israel, and invite its engineers and water desalination technology to reverse the damage done by the ruinous policies of the Iranian Revolution.

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