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Friday, May 22

Turkey takes it all, and a few words about Westphalian civilization and sand

Bets are on for who's going to come out on top in the Melee in the Middle East. Will it be the Saudi coalition?  Iran? Turkey? Islamic State?  My money's on Turkey.  From The world will soon be at war over water by James Fergusson; Newsweek, April 24, 2015 (May 1 edition):
Turkey’s stranglehold over its downstream neighbours is real – and it is set to tighten further in 2015, with the completion of the controversial Ilisu hydro-dam on the Tigris, which will create a 10 billion cubic metre reservoir just 30 miles north of the Syrian border. The dam is the latest of 22 envisioned under the Southeastern Anatolia Project (or GAP, to use its Turkish acronym), a vast regional development plan that was originally mooted by Kemal Ataturk in the 1930s.

The father of modern Turkey could not have foreseen how completely his country’s “blue gold” would one day replace oil as the region’s most important resource. Iraq’s oil industry requires 1.8 billion cubic metres of water a year in order to function at all.

Ankara has adopted a canny and forward foreign policy for years now, extending its influence everywhere from Somalia to Afghanistan. What is happening in Anatolia now suggests that “neo-Ottomanism” is not just political posturing: it really is the future for this part of the Middle East.

Hydrologists in Sweden recently suggested that by 2040, the volume of water being extracted from the mighty Tigris and Euphrates – rivers that once delineated and sustained the cradle of civilisation – could be so great that they no longer reach the sea.

Once the GAP is completed, about half of the water these rivers now carry may never leave Turkey at all. The prediction bodes very ill for the visionaries of Islamic State. Whatever else they may achieve, it is no 1,000-year Reich that they are building in Syria or Iraq.

I don't agree with James Fergusson's assertion in the report that Islamic State is, "in the end, a symptom of social malfunction." I'd say it's a symptom of Western governments failing to take the overriding aim of Islam seriously.    

As to his point that water is a significant factor in social unrest in many regions, he's in the parking lot.  But he and his editors at Newsweek and the rest of us are still feeling our way into the ballpark.

This isn't a problem of water scarcity contributing to social unrest; this is a civilizational problem.  The Westphalian concept of national sovereignty is a luxury that many peoples can't afford. This is because the deserts they live near pay no attention to legal boundaries. 

A report from Reuters on the conflict in Mali mentions the Sahara is spreading south at the rate of 48 kms (30 mi) a day. As it travels it shoves farmers and graziers off their land. 

And so the humans flee, into cities that then become overcrowded and unable to provide basic services or jobs for the hordes, and into rural areas traditionally controlled by other tribes and clans.

These, then, are the sand refugees.

When they can't flee any more within a nation, they spill across borders.


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