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The Middle East has traditionally been important for the world economy. The Middle East situation today has an impact on all aspects of life in America and much of the world.

Only by understanding the motivations of the various factions in the Middle East can we hope to understand how to promote peace and national security for Middle Eastern nations, Europe, and the United States.

Oct 14, 2009

Sequel - Water Crisis in The Arab World

The BBC News (10/13/09) reported that "for the last two years Iraq, Syria, Jordan and parts of Turkey and Lebanon, have suffered from the devastating effects for the worst drought that the Middle East has experienced in decades."

At a recent meeting of the Arab League, the Chairman Amr Moussa stated that the Arab World is facing critical water shortage and unless some drastic measures are taken, it will be classified among the most impoverished water region. He, further, maintained that the Arab World needs to challenge the "Israeli water theft in Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon" (Al Masry Al Youm, 10/13/09).

According to the UN Arab Human Development Report (2007-2008), 15% of the total population is unable to obtain clean, fresh water for drinking. The percentage fluctuates from 2% in Egypt to 32% in Yemen. Moreover, sewage system lacks among 30% of the population in the Arab World. The percentage fluctuates from 2% in Lebanon and the Emirates to 70% in the Sudan. It should be stressed here that the Arab World is inhabited by 5% of the world population and have only 1% of the fresh water in the world.

In some countries of the Arab World drought has lasted longer than others. For instance, the UNESCO reported that "drought in Iraq has forced more than 100,000 people in Northern Iraq to abandon their homes since 2005, with 36,000 more on the verge of leaving.The four-year drought and excessive well pumping have led to the collapse of an ancient system of underground aqueducts, or karez.* Only 116 of 683 karez systems are currently operational, according to a study of the United Nations Agency. The study says 70 percent of active karez have dried up." (New York Times, 10/14/09)

The drought and the construction of dams in Turkey and Syria decreased the flows of the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers by more than 50%. "Southern Iraq river flow is so sluggish that salt water from the Gulf has reached further upstream, making it hard to supply safe drinking water to Basra."( BBC News, 10/1/09)

The recent Iranian action to divert the flow of the Karoon river water away from Shatt Al Arab increased the salinity of water in the area.

The impact of the drought could also be seen all over Syria. "Roads around the capital Damascus are lined with makeshift camps. An estimated 300,000 people have already fled the north east and officials say that every day brings more refugees. With hundreds of thousands of people coming towards the cities, drought is changing the demographics of the Middle East. It is spreading poverty and social discontent and putting an addition pressure on already vulnerable societies." (BBC News, 10/13/09)

There is no doubt that scarcity and shortage of fresh drinking water is causing anguish, and leading to the destabilization of societies in the Arab World.

*NB: karez is an irrigation water system that originated 3000 years ago in Western Iran and Northern Iraq.

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