By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

After decades, Iran, Iraq ready to Dredge the Shatt al-Arab

Hope of restoring a clean water lifeline to Basra province is on the rise again with plans by the Iraqi and Iranian governments to revive the Shatt al-Arab as a source of drinking water and improve its functioning as a trade route.

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By Omar al-Jaffal for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Will Iraq lose its benefits from Shatt al-Arab River to Iran?

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Baghdad March 11 to endorse the two countries’ renewed commitment to the 1975 Algiers Agreement regarding the shared border of the Shatt al-Arab River. The agreement has sat idle for decades, as Iraq has attempted to evade what it sees as unfair terms.

However, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi last week signed a number of economic accords with the Iranian president that address the following issues: entry visas for citizens of both countries, raising the value of trade exchange, railway connections and demarcation of the water borders as per the Algiers Agreement, which was first signed when the shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was in power and Saddam Hussein was vice president.

But the recommitment to the agreement has sparked fears among media commentators, water resource specialists and political factions in Iraq that the country will lose out on benefits from the Shatt al-Arab.

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By John Lee.

The Iraqi Ministry of Transport has that the ferry between Al-Ashar Quay on the banks of the Shatt al-Arab in Basra and the Iranian port of Khorramshahr  has resumed after a three-year suspension.

Forty-six passengers travelled on the first service on Saturday.

The Director of the General Company for Maritime Transport, Abdul Karim Al-Jabri, that the company owns modern boats and is dedicated to the success of the service.

(Source: Ministry of Transport)

By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraqi Minister of Transport Kazem Finjan al-Hamami revealed July 25 that Iran has agreed to participate with Iraq in the construction of a dam on the Shatt al-Arab River — formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers — to confront the ongoing water crisis. Both countries hope to achieve bilateral benefits from the project to be established in Abu Flous Port in Abu al-Khaseeb district.

The agreement comes at the heels of the popular protests organized in Basra on July 8 about the lack of drinking water and services. On July 5, Basra’s tribes asked the Iranian government to stop the flow of water into Iraqi territory, which increases the salinity in the Shatt al-Arab River.

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By John Lee.

Iraqi oil minister Jabar Ali al-Luaibi [Allibi] has ordered the completion of a new tourism facility at Muftiya City, on the Shatt al Arab.

The 38-acre water city will included a waterpark, a leisure resort for families, and an aquarium. There will also be a zoo over 52 acres, a closed football stadium, Olympic swimming pool, sports and entertainment facilities, and restaurants.

The Minister has also ordered other projects in the Basra area, including the rehabilitation of the Ashar River, the restoration of an ancient clock in Basra, and the building of a model school.

(Source: Ministry of Oil)

By Sara al-Qaher for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iran, Iraq seek to send a message with joint naval exercises

In conjunction with the military maneuvers of the Iranian-backed Shiite Popular Mobilization Units along the Iraqi border with Saudi Arabia on Jan. 4, former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki attacked Saudi Arabia from Tehran on Jan. 3, accusing Riyadh of being a source of terrorism and of backing terror groups in the region.

This followed another maneuver by Iranian-Iraqi maritime forces at the Shatt al-Arab, a waterway formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that flows into the Persian Gulf.

Maliki’s statements and the military maneuver both carry a clear message to Saudi Arabia that Iraq is a full ally of Iran against any Saudi threat.

On Dec. 16, Iranian naval forces conducted a military exercise with a nominal participation of the Iraqi naval forces at the Shatt al-Arab. Iranian naval commanders said the military drills were aimed at enhancing joint maritime patrols, searching suspected boats and preventing smuggling, infiltration and piracy in the waters of the Shatt al-Arab.

The Iraqi naval forces participated in the exercise with six Defender boats. This joint exercise is the first between Tehran and Baghdad since the restoration of bilateral relations after 2003.

Jabbar al-Saidi, the head of the security committee in the Basra provincial council, described the drills as mere joint tactical exercises to enhance Iraq’s maritime capabilities and expertise. He told Al-Monitor that the exercise had opened the door to joint cooperation between Iraqi and Iranian coastal guards focused on controlling activities of smugglers and traffickers. He said that the drills will continue in light of the ongoing cooperation and meetings with Iran to promote joint naval security work.

The Shatt al-Arab is seen as the backbone of the Iraqi economy, serving as a channel for ships heading to the port of Basra from the Persian Gulf. It is also a major source of irrigation for palm groves. The Shatt al-Arab is 190 kilometers (118 miles) long and 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) wide in some areas.

Iran has three ports along the Shatt al-Arab: the ports of Khorramshahr, which has seen significant expansion, Abadan and Khosro-Abad. In recent years, Iran has also started building three more ports, in addition to new offshore platforms.

By Walaa Hussein for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Middle East is facing a water crisis. As the region experiences conflicts over water and faces the continuous risk of war breaking out, experts on water predict that the Islamic State (IS) aims to exacerbate this water crisis, as evidenced by its efforts to seize rivers and dams in Syria and Iraq, starting in 2013.

The Arab League has worked since 2008 to establish a new Arab convention on water usage, which would establish parameters on how to deal with the water crisis. However, the final draft is still under review because of the reservations of some member states.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, an international consulting organization, has identified numerous regions where the water crisis threatens to transform into a global conflict. Turkey, Syria and Iraq are included on that list, due to the Turkish dams controlling the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Iran and Iraq are also witnessing a competition over the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, known as Shatt al-Arab.

Also included is Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, which are witnessing a conflict over the Nile. Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Chad and Niger are also experiencing a crisis in relation to an 800-meter (0.5-mile) deep underground water field and the Nubian sandstone aquifer. Libya wants to invest in this aquifer to extend an artificial river and supply its coastline with freshwater.

Mahmoud Abu Zeid, president of the Arab Water Council, told Al-Monitor that the Arab region is facing a crisis because of the lack of rain and available water resources. The Arab region accounts for less than 7% of the world’s water reserves, according to Abu Zeid, and less than 1% of the flowing water, while rain does not exceed 2% of the global average.

“Arab water is facing a great danger, which portends the exacerbation of the water conflict given that freshwater resources are limited. However, there is a food gap that increases with the growing population, which threatens a famine by 2025 in the absence of concerted efforts,” Abu Zeid said.

Abu Zeid also warned against IS using water as a weapon. “IS’ expansion has become concentrated in water resource regions in Syria and Iraq, and it is very clear that IS is seeking to acquire parts of Arab water sources,” he said. “Given that water represents life, seizing such resources in Arab countries would be very serious and would constitute an inhumane means of pressure.”

IS fighters control most of the upper areas of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which flow from Turkey in the north to the Gulf in the south. All of Iraq and a large part of Syria rely on these rivers for food, water and industry. Abu Zeid predicted that IS’ attempts to control Arab water resources would lead to a water crisis that would overshadow the ongoing oil conflict, since water is a matter of life or death.

Abu Zeid said the Arab Water Council is preparing a report on the tense water situation in IS-controlled areas. The council’s experts have monitored a series of serious moves by IS that aim to gain control of Arab water sources as a means to exert pressure, such as the seizing of an Iraqi dam and controlling water resources in Syria. “We will work on raising this problem at the international level because it is a sign of a humanitarian disaster, given the number of countries [IS] is stationed in,” he said.

According to a September 2014 report from the Beirut Center for Middle East Studies, IS considers controlling rivers and dams to be a weapon more important than oil.

IS’ attempts to control water resources are in line with the group’s announcement to extend its so-called caliphate from the Levant to Egypt, Ethiopia and the Maghreb, according to the group’s caliphate map published in July 2014 on social media. This caliphate would extend into the headwaters of the Nile. The allegiance sworn by Boko Haram in March 2015 to IS emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was probably aimed at supporting the IS conspiracy to control the headwaters of the Nile.

Asked about the Arab Water Council’s strategy to confront the water crisis, Abu Zeid said, “We are currently working on maximizing water resources in the Arab region, especially since the Arab water conflict includes Arab-Arab conflicts due to the presence of common rivers between a number of Arab countries, as well as Arab conflicts with other countries, especially since the water quantity that comes from outside the Arab world accounts for more than 60% of the water used in Arab countries.

“This is the threat that prompted us to resort to non-traditional water, especially treated agricultural water and wastewater,” he said. “We are currently working on the direct exploitation of brackish water, which is abundantly found in the subsoil Arab aquifers, in agriculture. We are also seeking to mix this non-fresh water with pure water. We recently issued a manual outlining their uses. Add to this the desalination techniques of seawater that were adopted by several Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to face water scarcity.”

The water war is a ghost threatening the Middle East.

Though the poor populations of this region are the only ones paying for the price of the oil conflict, the water wars will not spare anyone.

(Picture: Mosul Dam)

By Walaa Hussein for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Middle East is facing a water crisis. As the region experiences conflicts over water and faces the continuous risk of war breaking out, experts on water predict that the Islamic State (IS) aims to exacerbate this water crisis, as evidenced by its efforts to seize rivers and dams in Syria and Iraq, starting in 2013.

The Arab League has worked since 2008 to establish a new Arab convention on water usage, which would establish parameters on how to deal with the water crisis. However, the final draft is still under review because of the reservations of some member states.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, an international consulting organization, has identified numerous regions where the water crisis threatens to transform into a global conflict. Turkey, Syria and Iraq are included on that list, due to the Turkish dams controlling the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Iran and Iraq are also witnessing a competition over the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, known as Shatt al-Arab.

Also included is Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, which are witnessing a conflict over the Nile. Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Chad and Niger are also experiencing a crisis in relation to an 800-meter (0.5-mile) deep underground water field and the Nubian sandstone aquifer. Libya wants to invest in this aquifer to extend an artificial river and supply its coastline with freshwater.

Mahmoud Abu Zeid, president of the Arab Water Council, told Al-Monitor that the Arab region is facing a crisis because of the lack of rain and available water resources. The Arab region accounts for less than 7% of the world’s water reserves, according to Abu Zeid, and less than 1% of the flowing water, while rain does not exceed 2% of the global average.

“Arab water is facing a great danger, which portends the exacerbation of the water conflict given that freshwater resources are limited. However, there is a food gap that increases with the growing population, which threatens a famine by 2025 in the absence of concerted efforts,” Abu Zeid said.

Abu Zeid also warned against IS using water as a weapon. “IS’ expansion has become concentrated in water resource regions in Syria and Iraq, and it is very clear that IS is seeking to acquire parts of Arab water sources,” he said. “Given that water represents life, seizing such resources in Arab countries would be very serious and would constitute an inhumane means of pressure.”

IS fighters control most of the upper areas of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which flow from Turkey in the north to the Gulf in the south. All of Iraq and a large part of Syria rely on these rivers for food, water and industry. Abu Zeid predicted that IS’ attempts to control Arab water resources would lead to a water crisis that would overshadow the ongoing oil conflict, since water is a matter of life or death.

Abu Zeid said the Arab Water Council is preparing a report on the tense water situation in IS-controlled areas. The council’s experts have monitored a series of serious moves by IS that aim to gain control of Arab water sources as a means to exert pressure, such as the seizing of an Iraqi dam and controlling water resources in Syria. “We will work on raising this problem at the international level because it is a sign of a humanitarian disaster, given the number of countries [IS] is stationed in,” he said.

According to a September 2014 report from the Beirut Center for Middle East Studies, IS considers controlling rivers and dams to be a weapon more important than oil.

IS’ attempts to control water resources are in line with the group’s announcement to extend its so-called caliphate from the Levant to Egypt, Ethiopia and the Maghreb, according to the group’s caliphate map published in July 2014 on social media. This caliphate would extend into the headwaters of the Nile. The allegiance sworn by Boko Haram in March 2015 to IS emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was probably aimed at supporting the IS conspiracy to control the headwaters of the Nile.

Asked about the Arab Water Council’s strategy to confront the water crisis, Abu Zeid said, “We are currently working on maximizing water resources in the Arab region, especially since the Arab water conflict includes Arab-Arab conflicts due to the presence of common rivers between a number of Arab countries, as well as Arab conflicts with other countries, especially since the water quantity that comes from outside the Arab world accounts for more than 60% of the water used in Arab countries.

“This is the threat that prompted us to resort to non-traditional water, especially treated agricultural water and wastewater,” he said. “We are currently working on the direct exploitation of brackish water, which is abundantly found in the subsoil Arab aquifers, in agriculture. We are also seeking to mix this non-fresh water with pure water. We recently issued a manual outlining their uses. Add to this the desalination techniques of seawater that were adopted by several Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to face water scarcity.”

The water war is a ghost threatening the Middle East.

Though the poor populations of this region are the only ones paying for the price of the oil conflict, the water wars will not spare anyone.

(Picture: Mosul Dam)

By John Lee.

During a visit to Basra, the Iranian Transport Minister, Abbas Akhwandi, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Governor of Basra, Majid al-Nasrawi, to lift sunken ships in the Shaat al-Arab waterway.

According to a report from AIN, the two also laid the corner stone for a railway project linking Basra with Khuzestan in Iran.

(Source: AIN)

By John Lee.

During a visit to Basra, the Iranian Transport Minister, Abbas Akhwandi, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Governor of Basra, Majid al-Nasrawi, to lift sunken ships in the Shaat al-Arab waterway.

According to a report from AIN, the two also laid the corner stone for a railway project linking Basra with Khuzestan in Iran.

(Source: AIN)