Iran’s Biggest Problem Isn’t Sanctions or Today’s Elections; It’s Water

From 1962 until 1979, the majority of water-infrastructure projects in Iran were managed by Israeli experts. All that changed with the Islamic Revolution of 1979. And this is but one of the many ways the ayatollahs have pushed their country to the brink of environmental disaster, as Seth Siegel explains:

Due to gross mismanagement and its ruinous impact on the country, Iran faces the worst water future of any industrialized nation. . . . Beginning in 1987, as the war with Iraq was ending, the special military force of the Iranian regime—the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)—was given a special perk. Among other strangleholds on the Iranian economy, IRGC-owned companies . . . were given control over major engineering projects throughout the country. Recklessly, these companies began damming major rivers, changing the historical water flows of Iran. This was done to give preferences to powerful landowners and favored ethnic communities while also transferring billions from the public treasury to IRGC leaders’ accounts. . . .

At the same time, the . . . regime turned a blind eye as farmers drilled wells without controls or concern about sustainability, giving themselves all of the groundwater they wanted. With fuel long heavily subsidized in Iran, farmers turned on their diesel pumps, and often left them on, even when fields didn’t need irrigating. After a few years of such abuse of dammed rivers and over-drafted groundwater, aquifers began to go dry and lakes shriveled. . . .

With farmland ruined, topsoil blown away, and insufficient water to grow crops, millions of farmers and herders have left the countryside to live in dismal conditions in Iran’s growing cities. Meanwhile, deserts have expanded, and the environmental damage to the country continues. . . . Sooner or later, the music will stop. Mother Nature is forgiving only up to a point. Once aquifers are pumped dry and begin collapsing on themselves, there is no engineering project—corrupt or otherwise—that can save them.

Read more at Washington Post

More about: Iran, Israel diplomacy, Politics & Current Affairs, Water

To Defeat the Legacy of Islamic State, Start Rebuilding the Communities It Destroyed

Now that the borders of Islamic State (IS) are slowly contracting, argues Alberto Fernandez, there is a moral and strategic imperative to reconstruct some of the non-Muslim communities that it has destroyed—and the U.S. should encourage local government to help:

Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate is crumbling, if all too slowly. Sadly, though, its ultimate collapse will not be the end of the story. It will leave behind a still-lethal insurgency that will almost certainly attempt to stage terrorist attacks around the world as well as a wide swath of physical destruction and devastated lives stretching from Aleppo to Ramadi.

And yet, even while the Islamic State is “losing,” there is no denying that it has also “won” some things. It has created grim facts on the ground. It has wiped out communities that will never rise again. Many Yazidi villages and towns within its orbit are destined to remain permanently empty because of slaughter and the flight of despairing survivors. IS jihadists also succeeded in destroying the ancient Christian community of Mosul, whose surviving members were robbed of everything they had when they were expelled from the city in July 2014. Many of the survivors of these same minority groups remain scattered around the region, and some still haven’t decided whether they should stay, with all the risks that it would entail, or leave forever. Islamic State has torn a hole in the fabric of the region’s millennia-old diversity that can never be fully repaired. . . .

But we should consider fresh ways for Muslim leaders to show concrete support for restoring what IS sought to exterminate. Even the resurrection of a single community would be a powerful message of solidarity and diversity in a Middle East that is becoming increasingly monochrome. . . .

In . . . Israel, one kibbutz incorporated and commemorated survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and other Jewish partisans. Imagine the resurrection of a non-Muslim community that the Islamic State sought to exterminate. What a powerful message that would send. And the message would resonate even more strongly if the work were to be done with the support of Muslim states.

Read more at Washington Post

More about: ISIS, Middle East Christianity, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, Yazidis