Iran’s water crisis could displace more than 60 percent of the country’s population. Photo: IRNA state news agency
The author of a best-selling book on Israel’s efforts to tackle the global water shortage has warned that Iran’s devastating water crisis could yet mushroom into a global security threat.
In an interview with The Algemeiner, Seth Siegel – author of “Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World“ – warned that if left unchecked, Iran’s critical lack of water supplies could result in the displacement of millions of Iranians across international borders, as well as cause a sharp spike in global food prices.
In an op-ed published by the Washington Post on Wednesday, Siegel argued that the economic empowerment of the Tehran regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) over the last thirty years lay at the root of the water crisis. “IRGC-owned companies … began damming major rivers, changing the historical water flows of Iran,” Siegel wrote. “This was done to give water preferences to powerful landowners and favored ethnic communities while also transferring billions from the public treasury to IRGC leaders’ accounts.”
A study by a former Iranian agricultural minister released in 2015 stated that within 25 years or less, 50 million Iranians – out of a current population total of 83 million – would need to be relocated, leading Siegel to observe that “of all the injustices and miseries that the Islamic revolution may have visited on the Iranian people,” displacing 60 percent of them from their homes “would be the cruelest of all.”
“We need to shine a light on this terrible Iranian mismanagement of their economy, of their water, of their environment,” Siegel said. “The IRGC has diverted billions of dollars to these ill-conceived engineering projects and it’s been a disaster for the people of Iran.”
Siegel continued: “You marry aggressive ideology with corruption and with broader mismanagement and, at first, mother nature is very forgiving. But Iran has now reached a tipping point. Its water systems have dried up, its aquifers have shriveled, and people who have made their living from farming for centuries are being driven from their land – not because of any water acquisition policy, but because there’s no water left to grow anything.”
Asked about the impact of the water crisis on a region already suffering the effects of Iranian destabilization, especially in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, Siegel identified two potential outcomes.
“Imagine that this problem continues and accelerates,” he said. “Iran starts moving large number of Iranians into southern Lebanon, or into Iraq, or Bahrain, or Yemen. That becomes a grave national security concern to America because that’s going to change the status quo of these countries.”
A second problem was the potential spike in global food prices. “If Iran continues to make agricultural areas sterile, because there’s no water left, you’re going to need to find food resources for tens of millions of people, and that’s going to drive up global food prices,” Siegel commented.
Siegel emphasized that the significance of Iran’s upcoming presidential election paled when compared with the gravity of the water crisis. Iran holds the poll on Friday, with two stalwart allies of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei – incumbent President Hasan Rouhani and his rival Ebrahim Raisi – facing off in the contest.