Turkey uses the water weapon against her neighbours:
WHEN THE TAP WAS TURNED-OFF
By Adel Darwish
In 1989 Turkey seized an opportunity to demonstrate its ability to control the flow of water to its neighbours, and provoked a remarkable alliance between enemies. In January 1990, it stopped the flow of the Euphrates. Officially, the interruption was to fill the vast lake in front of the new Ataturk Dam; in fact, it was a demonstration to Syria of what might happen if President Hafez al-Assad continued aiding the Kurdish rebels in south-east Anatolia. Halting the flow of the Euphrates into Syria also brought water shortages in Iraq. Turkish planners thought that would not matter, as Syria and Iraq were bitter enemies.
Faced with this common threat, however, old antagonisms were instantly forgotten; the Iraqi and Syrian media united in denouncing Turkey, and military leaders from both countries drew up plans for armed retaliation. After three weeks, the river was allowed to flow as usual, though the stoppage had been planned to last a month.
Trouble between Turkey and Syria over water remains the likeliest prospect today. So far, Turkey has completed only about half of the Gap (South-east Anatolia) project to build 22 dams and reservoirs on the Euphrates to reclaim 1.7 M Hectar. When the Gap is completed, the quantity and quality of water flow to Syria will be reduced by an estimated 40 percent of its 1980 flow ( which was 7,000 bn gallons of water). Turkey says the water will eventually return back to the river after watering its fields, but water will be much saltier by then, the Syrians say. And as the whole Western Alliance would be involved by a war between Turkey and Syria, it is no surprise that American and European planners have been working on contingency plans for such eventuality.
When all the Euphrates projects are complete, the Turks intend to harness the Tigris. That will have a direct effect on Iraq ( about 90 per cent of the current flow), again forcing Syria and Iraq into alliance - though they almost went to war in 1975, when Syria built the Thawrah dam.
President Suleyman Demirel summed up the intransigent attitude of the Turks: `Neither Syria nor Iraq can lay claim to Turkey's rivers, any more than Ankara could claim their oil . . . We have a right to do anything we like. The water resources are Turkey's, the oil resources are theirs. We don't say we share the oil resources, and they cannot say they share our water resources.'
Syria's answer has been to step up support for the Kurdish fighters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK, spreading devastation in Turkey. Part of the Kurdish grievances is the GAP project in their home land. Between 1984 and 1993 the region became a battle ground, some 5000 people were killed as the Kurdish revolt spread. Those who wanted to live peacefully were caught between the hammer of the PKK and the anvil of Turkish security forces. Iraq's answer as yet to be made.
The Tigris-Euphrates river basin is the scene not only of a bitter, low-intensity war in eastern Turkey, but also of silent genocide where the two great rivers unite in the Shatt-al-Arab ( which itself was a main cause of eight year war between Iran and Iraq to move the borders from its middle to the eastern bank ) and discharge themselves into the warm waters of the Gulf. There, Saddam Hussein's engineers have built a `Third River' to drain the marshes north of Basra, home for 3,000 years to the Marsh Arabs. This is followed by another one `The Mother of All Battles River' Ostensibly an irrigation project, it is really a way of suppressing forever the last pocket of resistance to President Saddam in the south of the country.
The Shia, who answered the call by George Bush for a rebellion against the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 1991, took refuge there when they were defeated, and have been supplied and joined by revolutionary guards and Iraqi dissidents from Iran. Unable to flush them out of their reed- hidden bases, the Iraqis first poisoned the waters, are now draining them - and are destroying a whole people and their way of life which is estimated to irreversibly disappear within the next 10 to 20 years if the Iraqi government continues to drain them as indicated by a study of ecological and environmental changes in the marsh region, an area slightly smaller than Wales, carried out by a team of scientists.
Of 15,000 square kilometers of marsh and lake in 1985, 57 per cent had been turned into dry land by 1992. [ Evidence for this claim comes from detailed interpretation of satellite images of the region, obtained from Landsat, NOAA and SPOT probes.] This transformation has irreversibly damaged much of the wildlife of the marshland ecosystem, which is classified as of global importance by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).