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Deep Dive Into Iran’s Water Woes

Urmia_lake_1984_to_2011Last week, The New York Times’ Thomas Erdbrink wrote an article on Iran that outlined a new threat. It wasn’t about uranium enrichment or backdoor discussions between the P5+1. It was about the water levels in Lake Urmia, the largest lake in the Middle East. The full article, “Its Great Lake Shriveled, Iran Confronts Crisis of Water Supply,” is worth a read.

Though the country’s nuclear ambitions still dominate the security discussion around Iran, the country’s natural resource crisis is slowly garnering increased attention.

Last October, David Michel, Director of the Environmental Security Program at the Stimson Center, wrote an article for the U.S. Institute of Peace asserting that Iran’s environment is a greater threat to it than its “foreign foes.”

The Center for Climate and Security has also covered the socio-environmental impacts of Iran’s disappearing Lake Urmia. In 2012, we ran a guest post by Dr. Aref Najafi of the Lake Urmia Conservation Institute, and contributor to the UNEP report “The Drying of Iran’s Lake Urmia and its Environmental Consequences.” The post provides an in-depth look at the political context of the Iranian government’s neglect of lake Urmia, building on our own briefer on the climate, water and security dimensions of the problem, “Eye on Iran: Lake Urmia, Water, Climate and Security in a Volatile Region.”

Muddling through the complex and delicate process of renegotiating the relationship between the United States, its allies and Iran, will likely remain at the forefront of the international security dialogue. However, security practitioners would do well to incorporate Iran’s climate, water and environmental insecurities into long-term assessments of the country’s stability. Doing so might open up opportunities for new, non-traditional pathways for diplomacy.


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