Iran-Turkey water policy leaves Iraq dry

Iraq’s southern provinces have been suffering a serious shortage of water.
Updated 12 January 2018
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Iran-Turkey water policy leaves Iraq dry

BAGHDAD: Iraq has been negotiating with Turkey and Iran to minimize the effects of the two countries’ water policies on its territories, Iraqi Deputy Minister of Water Resources Mahdi Rasheed told Arab News on Wednesday.
Rasheed said that the talks were aimed at finding common solutions to an expected water crisis in the summer.
Iraq mainly relies on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and rainwater to provide its fresh water needs. Both rivers originate from outside Iraq, and Turkey, Iran and Syria have controlled the release of water into Iraq for decades.
A decline in rainfall during the past two months, increasing rates of evaporation caused by high temperatures and a lack of water imports from Turkey and Iran, mean Iraq’s southern provinces have been suffering a serious shortage of water.
The crisis is expected to worsen after the completion of the Alesso dam and Turkey’s announcement of its intention to fill the dam’s reservoirs in March.
Iraq last week filed a formal request to Turkey to postpone the filling of the Alesso dam from March to June to help Iraq “overcome the period of water scarcity.”
“The water shortage crisis still exists. If Turkey insists on filling the reservoirs of the (Allesso) dam in March, we will certainly be hurt,” Rasheed said. “We will have to rely on our water reservoirs to secure the demands of agriculture and drinking water. As a ministry we are thinking about the future; it is not logical to empty our (water) reservoir.”
Iraq is seeking to benefit from the season of melting of snow, which begins in March, to replenish its water reservoirs. Iraqi officials involved in the talks with Turkey have presented an alternative plan for the Turkish side to fill the reservoirs without depriving Iraq of water during March to June.
According to the suggested Iraqi plan, the filling period of the Turkish dam would last for a maximum of four years and minimum of seven months, depending on rainfall.
“The Turkish side understands our problem,” said Rasheed, who heads the Iraqi delegation negotiating with the Kurdish side on the joint water issues.
“We recognize their right to fill the dam but we have a problem. We agree that the dam will help us to control the water release and organize water policy, but the problem is their (the Turkish) plan to fill it (the dam),” he said.
“We are still waiting for their response to our request and we expect that they will answer us next week.”
Rasheed said that Iraq is facing similar problems with Iran, which has cut the water imports of the Tigris river from 40 percent to 15 percent due to the projects and dams that Iran has established on the river during the past years.
The almost-completed Daryan dam, which Iran is building on the Tigris river, 28 km away from the Iraqi-Iranian border, and the 47 km-long tunnel it has dug near it to divert the river into Iran, is the biggest concern for Iraqi officials.
“Iran is trying to divert the course of the (Tigris) river. In this case even the (amount) that we receive now will be cut and will not reach us,” Rasheed said.


Egypt restricts yellow vests sales to avoid copycat protests

Updated 16 min 13 sec ago
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Egypt restricts yellow vests sales to avoid copycat protests

  • Egypt has virtually banned protests, and the general-turned-president El-Sisi often warns that his tough hand ensuring stability is necessary
  • The yellow vests worn by French protesters have become the symbol of the wave of demonstrations that began in November

CAIRO: Egyptian authorities have quietly introduced restrictions on the sale of yellow reflective vests, fearing opponents might attempt to copy French protesters during next month’s anniversary of the 2011 popular uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, security officials and retailers said Monday.
They said industrial safety equipment dealers have been instructed not to sell yellow vests to walk-in buyers and to restrict business to wholesale sales to verified companies, but only after securing police permission. They were told offenders would be punished, the officials said without elaborating.
Six retailers in a Cairo downtown area where industrial safety stores are concentrated said they were no longer selling yellow vests. Two declined to sell them, giving no explanation, but the remaining four told The Associated Press they were told not to by police.
“They seem not to want anyone to do what they are doing in France,” said one retailer. “The police came here a few days back and told us to stop selling them. When we asked why, they said they were acting on instructions,” said another. Both spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Security officials said the restrictions would remain in force until the end of January. They said industrial safety product importers and wholesale merchants were summoned to a meeting with senior police officers in Cairo this week and informed of the rules.
The officials, who have first-hand knowledge of the measures, spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief the media. Repeated calls and messages to the spokesman of the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, to seek comment went unanswered.
The move showcases the depth of the Egyptian government’s concern with security. The past two years, Egyptian authorities clamped down heavily, deploying police and soldiers across the country, to prevent any marches to commemorate the Jan. 25 anniversary of the start of the 2011 uprising. Scores were killed and wounded in clashes during the uprising anniversaries in years before that.
The yellow vests worn by French protesters have become the symbol of the wave of demonstrations that began in November against a rise in fuel taxes but mushroomed to include a range of demands, including the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron.
Egyptian media coverage of the unrest has emphasized the ensuing riots, looting and arson in Paris, echoing President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s frequent refrain that street action leads to chaos. He recently outright denounced for the first time the 2011 uprising, saying it plunged the country into economic and political turmoil.
Egypt has virtually banned protests, and the general-turned-president El-Sisi often warns that his tough hand ensuring stability is necessary, pointing to war and destruction in Syria, Yemen and Libya as the alternative. His emphasis on security has taken on added significance amid his ambitious program to reform the economy, which has unleashed steep price hikes, hitting the middle class hard.
Since El-Sisi rose to office in 2014, there have been no significant protests. Still, the government is constantly wary they could return, especially given that the 2011 protests erupted as part of a chain reaction, inspired by Tunisia’s “Arab Spring” uprising.
Rights lawyer Gamal Eid said his Cairo-based Arab Network for Human Rights Information has seen a recent spike in small “social protests,” with the privatization of state-owned enterprises the main issue.
“The government here is talking up its achievements, but it fears a backlash because ordinary people have yet to tangibly benefit from the mega projects underway,” said Eid, who is banned by authorities from traveling while his group’s online site is blocked by the government.
Negad Borai, another rights lawyer, said the government could delay expected price hikes next year “to avoid protests inspired by what’s happening in France.”
El-Sisi led the military’s 2013 ouster of a freely elected but divisive president. He was elected in 2014 and, earlier this year, won a second-term, running virtually unopposed. He has overseen the largest crackdown on critics seen in Egypt in living memory, jailing thousands of Islamists along with pro-democracy activists, reversing freedoms won in the 2011 uprising, silencing critics and placing draconian rules on rights groups.