Recently reports on ISIS have been focused on the countless beheadings the acts of terror they commit throughout the region. Any focus on resources in regard to ISIS has mainly been in regard to the oil they have been selling on the black market to sustain their terrorist organization. However, water is a much more important resource in both understanding and dealing with the ISIS threat.
First, water is a very scarce and crucial resource in the Middle East especially in Iraq and Syria. Due to the limited sources of water in the region it is not unlikely that group could feasibly control this resource thus causing extreme difficulty for enemies. Water scarcity has long been an issue in the region and the impacts of the past decade such as cheap food imports and drought have only made matters worse.
The growing issue has been the threat of if ISIS control over the water source. If this occurs there will be thousands without clean water. Michael Stephan an expert in the region stated, “Control of water supplies gives strategic control over both cities and countryside.”
This issue is made very clear by the map above. The region is almost entirely provided water by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and ISIS controls much of the territory upriver. This coupled with the fact that they control various major dams in the region poses a very serious threat especially as both Syria and Iraq face very extreme issues outside of dealing with the threat of ISIS.
Water, a topic we have covered in depth previously in the course can have a very important impact on this region regarding the outcome of the Syrian Civil War as well as the general instability of the ongoing Iraqi democratic movement following U.S intervention in 2003.
Essentially what this means is that both countries will be greatly impacted by who controls the water, however, regardless of who controls this valuable resource, the common Iraqi or Syrian are the ones truly losing.