The activation of Turkey’s Ilisu Dam is likely to complicate relations with Baghdad

The activation of Turkey’s Ilisu Dam is likely to complicate relations with Baghdad
Ilisu Dam, 140 km from Iraq, is just the latest in a number of dams that have given Turkey control over Iraq’s water supply. (Photo/YouTube)
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Updated 23 May 2020

The activation of Turkey’s Ilisu Dam is likely to complicate relations with Baghdad

The activation of Turkey’s Ilisu Dam is likely to complicate relations with Baghdad
  • Ankara has not made any statement about legal guarantees that might be given to Baghdad about the operation of the Ilisu Dam

ANKARA: Turkey’s controversial, decades-long Ilisu Dam project reached a milestone on Tuesday when its first turbine began generating power.

When fully operational the dam, on the river Tigris in the southeastern Mardin province, is expected to generate 4.1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year.

However, in addition to ongoing criticism of the displacement of 80,000 people whose homes were flooded, there are concerns about the possibility that the $2 billion dollar project will reduce water flow to neighboring, water-scarce Iraq.

“The Ilisu dam adds another twist to the already complicated relationship between Iraq and Turkey,” said Dr. Muhanad Seloom, an assistant professor of security studies at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies.

“The shares of Tigris water have been present in almost all high-level diplomatic, commercial and security meetings between the two sides. Iraqi officials accuse Turkey of using water shares to further its economic interests, and to force the Iraqi government to attack and eventually expel the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from its territories.”

Seloom said the partially-formed government of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi has neither has the capacity nor the mandate to negotiate with Turkey about mitigating the effects of the dam on Iraq’s water supply and agriculture.

“Iraq will most likely issue another rhetorical statement voicing concern and calling on Turkey to respect its obligations under international water-shares treaties,” he said.

Geopolitical analyst Bashdar Ismaeel said that water is such an important issue for drought-susceptible Iraq, and its agricultural sector in particular, it is imperative that agreements are reached with Turkey that guarantee requirements are met.

“Agriculture provides a means of livelihood for more than a third of Iraq’s population, and 80 per cent of the country’s water goes to agriculture, so you can see its reliance on water,” he said. “If Iraq gets sufficient rainfall, then concerns over water supply from Turkey can be papered over, but any semblance of drought and Iraq will suffer greatly.”

The problem, he added, is that Ilisu is just the latest in a number of dams that have given Turkey control over Iraq’s water supply. As a result, Iraq is at the mercy of Turkey.

The Ilisu dam adds another twist to the already complicated relationship between Iraq and Turkey.

Dr. Muhanad Seloom, A security expert

“In case of any water shortages, does Turkey put its own interests first or those of Iraq?” Ismaeel wondered.

Ilisu Dam is 140 kilometers from Iraq, and experts warn that that it could can easily be used as a “regional weapon” in any dispute between the neighbors.

“Iraq’s vast oil resources give it strategic and political advantage in the region, so in a similar vein, Turkey can (argue it has the right to control) strategic water resources that emanate from its lands,” said Ismaeel.

“If relations are cordial, it is unlikely that Iraq and Turkey would fall out over water. But with the sensitive sociopolitical and economic landscape in the region, it would not take much for tension or disagreements to arise.

“Future tit-for-tit measures might mean Iraq could also try to undermine Turkey’s interests, through proxies or direct means, if Turkey threatened to cut off water supplies.”

Baghdad has expressed many concerns about the building of dams in Turkey. Even if the Iraqi government reaches a compromise with Turkey, Ismaeel said, it would face a massive backlash from the public if there are any water shortages.

“The Iraqi government cannot afford more mass protests and social and political chaos,” he added. “If it appears the Iraqi PM is appeasing Ankara at the expense of the welfare of ordinary Iraqis, then can you imagine the reaction from the public?”

Ankara has not made any statement about legal guarantees that might be given to Baghdad about the operation of the Ilisu Dam.

“With the dam set to produce a huge amount of electricity, there could yet be a trade off, economically, for Iraq,” said Ismaeel. “Even if water flow is reduced, Iraq could benefit in other ways.

“If Iraq gets sufficient rainfall, water-flow rates might not be problematic and Iraq’s resistance to the dams might be more muted — but this is a dangerous tactical approach.”

 


EU sees must-not-miss chance to revive Iran nuclear deal

EU sees must-not-miss chance to revive Iran nuclear deal
Updated 7 min 13 sec ago

EU sees must-not-miss chance to revive Iran nuclear deal

EU sees must-not-miss chance to revive Iran nuclear deal
  • Nuclear deal almost collapsed after the Trump administration unilaterally pulled the US out three years ago

BRUSSELS: The top European Union diplomat supervising the international agreement aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions called Friday for a concerted effort to reinvigorate the pact even as Tehran appears to be reneging on some of its commitments.
“This is an occasion that we cannot miss,” to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters via video-link.
The deal almost collapsed after the Trump administration unilaterally pulled the US out three years ago, triggering crippling economic sanctions on Iran. Britain, France and Germany notably struggled to keep it alive and have been heartened by President Joe Biden’s willingness to bring the US back in.
“I am convinced as coordinator of the JCPOA that we do have diplomatic space, a diplomatic window of opportunity to dialogue” in line with Biden’s aims, Borrell said. “We need to use this opportunity and focus on solutions to bring the JCPOA back on track in order for everybody (to fulfil) their commitments.”
Iran this week effectively set a deadline to lift the US sanctions within three months, after which it said it would erase surveillance footage of its nuclear facilities. It has also limited some monitoring of its activities, which the EU says are meant to help ensure that Tehran’s nuclear work is peaceful.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has also reported that Iran has added 17.6 kilograms (38.8 pounds) of uranium enriched up to 20 percent to its stockpile as of Feb. 16 — far past the 3.67 percent purity allowed under the JCPOA.
Borrell said that Iran’s latest moves “are very much concerning.”

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HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border

HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border
Updated 26 February 2021

HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border

HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border
  • Shooting in the border area near the town of Saravan killed at least 10 people and wounded five
BEIRUT: Human Rights Watch called on Iran Friday to investigate a deadly shooting by Revolutionary Guards against smugglers attempting to transport fuel into neighboring Pakistan for excessive use of force.
Monday’s shooting in the border area near the town of Saravan killed at least 10 people and wounded five, HRW said, citing Baluchi activists.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had blocked a road used to transport fuel before apparently opening fire at people attempting to reopen the route, it added.
The action has prompted attacks by angry protesters on government buildings in both Saravan and the Sistan-Baluchistan provincial capital Zahedan.
“The Iranian authorities should urgently conduct a transparent and impartial investigation into the shootings at the Saravan border,” said HRW Iran researcher Tara Sepehri Far.
“The authorities should hold those responsible for wrongdoing to account, appropriately compensate victims and ensure that border guards are taking the utmost precautions to respect the right to life and other human rights.”
Provincial deputy governor Mohammad-Hadi Marashi said Tuesday that the shooting had started from the Pakistani side of the border and one person had been killed and four wounded.
Sistan-Baluchistan province has long been a security headache for the Iranian government.
Its large ethnic Baluch population, which staddles the frontier, has made it a flashpoint for cross-border attacks on government or Shiite targets by separatists and Sunni extremists.
HRW said the lack of employment opportunities in the province had left its ethnic Baluch population few alternatives to black market trading with their fellow Baluchs across the border.
“Similar to the western provinces of Western Azerbaijan and Kurdistan (on the border with Iraq), its lack of economic opportunities has led many residents to engage in unlawful cross-border commerce with Pakistan,” the New York-based watchdog.

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19
Updated 26 February 2021

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19
  • About 35 percent of Israel’s population had received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine

JERUSALEM: Israel has administered at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose to 50 percent of its 9.3 million population, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Friday.
Israel counts East Jerusalem Palestinians, who have been included in the vaccine campaign that began on Dec 19, as part of its population. Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip are not part of the Israeli campaign.
Edelstein said 35 percent of Israel’s population had received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, putting them on course to receive a so-called “Green Pass” with access to leisure sites that the country has been gradually reopening.


Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms

Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms
Updated 26 February 2021

Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms

Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms
  • Appointing the Cabinet is part of a UN-backed transitional roadmap
  • Since 2015, Libyan state institutions have been divided between two administrations

CAIRO: Libya’s newly-elected prime minister failed to name members of a much-anticipated Cabinet ahead of an expected deadline Thursday, raising questions over whether his transitional government can unite Libya’s factions.
Prime Minister designate Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah was set to announce his Cabinet in a news conference from the capital, Tripoli, and send it to Libya’s House of Representatives for approval.
Instead, Dbeibah told reporters he only shared with Libyan lawmakers proposed guidelines for the selection of Cabinet members and an outline of his priorities in the coming period.
Appointing the Cabinet is part of a UN-backed transitional roadmap, which envisages holding general elections in the war-torn North African country by the end of the year.
Since 2015, Libyan state institutions have been divided between two administrations: One in the east and another in the west, each supported by a vast array of militias and foreign governments.
“We are ready to submit the names (of Cabinet ministers) but we should consult among ourselves and examine candidate names meticulously,” Dbeibah told reporters in Tripoli without specifying when he will actually make the submission.
Dbeibah said he envisages a Cabinet of technocrats who would represent Libya’s different geographic areas and social segments.
“These are critical times and we are taking into consideration that the Cabinet must genuinely achieve national unity and seek consensus and reconciliation,” he said.
He added that the country’s sovereign ministerial portfolios should be equally divided between candidates from Libya’s three key geographic areas in the east, the west and the south.
Earlier this month, Dbeibah was elected as prime minister by Libyan delegates at a UN-sponsored conference near Geneva.
The 75-member Libyan Political Dialogue Forum also elected a three-member Presidential Council, which along with Dbeibah should lead the country through general elections on December 24. Mohammad Younes Menfi, a Libyan diplomat from the country’s east, was selected as chairman of the council.


Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures

Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures
Updated 26 February 2021

Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures

Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures
  • The Janssen Covid-19 Vaccine will be the fifth vaccine authorized in Bahrain in the fight against the spread of COVID-19
  • The announcement comes as the Government Executive Committee extended precautionary measures

DUBAI: Bahrain’s National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) has authorized the use of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine for coronavirus the Bahrain News Agency reported on Friday.

The Janssen Covid-19 Vaccine will be the fifth vaccine authorized in Bahrain in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 and will be given to those most at risk, suchas the elderly, people with chronic diseases and other groups identified by the Health Ministry.

The announcement comes as the Government Executive Committee extended precautionary measures, aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, for an additional three months.

The measures involve the continued enforcement of  social distancing and screening of people at commercial and industrial premises for a further three months.