Iranian spiritual leader’s advisor for military affairs, Yahya Rahim Safavi, warned of regional tensions between Iran and its neighbors over water in the coming years, stressing that his country was not seeking to resort to war, Asharq al-Awsat reports. During a two-day conference entitled, “Water Diplomacy and Hydropolitics Opportunities in West Asia,” Safavi called Feb. 27 for talks with Iraq and Afghanistan on water resources and said.
“The issue of the scarcity of water resources may lead to … challenges among countries. In Iran, we have common water [resources] with 12 neighboring countries, which can [lead to] both interaction and tensions. We do not want the situation in this area to lead to confrontation and military solutions,” he noted, calling for the activation of diplomacy to reach a joint cooperation between Iran and its neighbors.
Iran has been facing over the last few years an environmental crisis, and Iranian officials are warning of the decline in the country’s water resources and drought in most of the provinces.
“10.2 billion cubic meters of water flow out of Iran, of which more than 7 billion enter Iraq. We do not want [this issue] to be dealt with by military and hard power and we should resort to soft power and diplomacy to reach a common engagement,” Safavi said, underlining the necessity to engage in negotiations with countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan on this issue.
In remarks at the conference, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi emphasized the importance of managing the country’s water resources to avoid a deteriorating situation. He noted that there were currently only nine countries in the region, including Iran, which have not faced a complete drought, warning that by 2025, all countries in the region, including Iran, would be in a state of complete drought.
“The country’s policy is to stop the flow of water from leaving the country. Of course, this is not so our neighbors become thirsty, but as I said, this needs to be managed,” Araghchi said.
Araghchi said that Iran is one of the most exceptional countries in the world in terms of hydropolitics, and Afghanistan will be the source of future water [issues].
“As you know, water has the capacity to instigate conflict between two villages, two cities, or two countries, but history shows that the issue of water has become a matter for cooperation between countries rather than an arena of conflict. Negotiations on surface waters and reaching an agreement on the distribution of water resources are not easy. For example, the Helmand Treaty, signed in the 1950s between Iran and Afghanistan, is a product of decades of negotiations,” he noted.
Explaining the prospect of water conflicts in the Middle East in the near future, Araghchi said, “The West Asia region is rapidly moving toward a complete drought. There are currently only nine countries in the region, including Iran, that have not faced a complete drought. But by 2025, all countries in the region, including Iran, will be in a state of complete drought.”
He said, “In such a situation, all countries are seeking to make full use of their water resources and do not allow water to flow out of their country. Our neighbors will adopt this policy, and we will as well. The country’s policy is to stop the flow of water from leaving the country. Of course, this is not so our neighbors become thirsty, but as I said, this needs to be managed.”
Mohammad-Ali Sobhanollahi, chancellor of Khawarizmi University, told conference participants, “The geopolitical map of the world, which was previously based on energy, will undergo water-related changes in the next 25 years.”
He emphasized that the water crisis in the Middle East is more severe compared with other parts of the world. “Reports indicate that the water crisis will cause massive displacement in the region in the next 25 years,” he told attendees.