The Conflict Between Turkey, Syria and Iraq, over the rivers Tiger and Euphrates

At the following Foreign Affairs article, titled “Rivers of Babylon: Iraq’s Water Crisis—And What Turkey Should Do”, August 2015, you can read about the conflict between Turkey, Syria and Iraq, over the waters of the rivers Tigers and Euphrates. See the following map.

Map 1

Map of Tiger and Euphates Rivers


The two rivers start in Turkey, they cross Syria and Iraq, and they end up in the Persian Gulf. Ancient Mesopotamia, which is the region between these two rivers, and Ancient Egypt, both owe much of their achievements to these three rivers i.e. Tiger, Euphrates and the Nile. See map 2.

Map 2



The article mentions that twice in the period 1975-1991 Iraq and Syria threatened Turkey with military action, and once Syria and Iraq almost went to war, over the waters of Tiger and Euphrates. The main problem is that Turkey is constructing huge dams, either to increase her water supplies, or for irrigation purposes, or for generating hydroelectric power. The Atatourk dam reduced the waters of Euphrates that reach Iraq by 1/3, and the Turkish dam of Ilisu Cizre, which is almost ready, will reduce the waters of Tiger that reach Iraq by almost 50%.

According to the article Iraq gets almost 90% of its fresh water supplies from these two rivers, and the great powers should help these three counties to reach a peaceful and viable solution. The war in Syria and Iraq makes the situation even worse, because it hurts the water network. Moreover some of the networks of Syria and Iraq are now controlled by ISIS. On the other hand, the Kurdish separatists of the PKK who operate in Eastern Turkey, threaten Turkey that they will attack the Turkish dams as a means of retaliation over their clashes.

The article also mentions the conflict between Israel, Jordan and Syria over the rivers Jordan and Yarmuk. Israel attacked a dam that was under construction by the Syrians in 1967. However according to Foreign Affairs there has been a lot of progress between the Israelis, the Jordanians and the Syrians, but this is not the case for the Turks, the Syrians and the Iraqis.

Jordan River


I was recently saying about the conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Nile River. See “The Conflict Between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Nile River”.

For the Foreign Affairs article see

“Rivers of Babylon: Iraq’s Water Crisis—And What Turkey Should Do”, August 2015

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