Water Emerges as Strategic Asset in Iran-Israel Conflict

Tomer Malchi water experiment (Joel Pollak / Breitbart News)
Joel Pollak / Breitbart News
JOEL B. POLLAK

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly reached an agreement, in principle, to keep Iranian troops way from Syria’s border with Israel. (The details are still being negotiated.)

As Breitbart News’ Caroline Glick has explained, both Israel and Jordan would regard an Iranian presence on the Golan frontier as an imminent threat. Iranian leaders have long vowed to destroy Israel. But they may have a more practical interest in the Golan Heights: Iran is running out of water.

Earlier this year, Iran faced protests over water shortages. Those protests returned this past Sunday. The Jerusalem Post, citing local Iranian media, reported that nearly half of Iran’s population would face water shortages this summer.

The Iranian press blamed “[a] dramatic rise in population, global warming, and an ongoing 14 year drought.” But mismanagement is certainly part of the problem — especially as the country continues waging war in Syria and sending money to terrorist organizations abroad.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu capitalized on the Iranian water crisis in June by publishing a video in which he spoke directly to the Iranian people and offered to help them with conserving water. The Israeli government even launched a website with water tips in Farsi.

Though Israel, like Iran, struggles with rising population, climate changes, and drought, is has used technology to create, conserve, and recycle water. Israel has now achieved water independence — a major national security goal for decades.

On a visit in May to the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture in Rehovot, Israel, I was shown just how far Israeli technology has come. The country re-uses 85% of its wastewater for agricultural purposes. That has created a bountiful new resources — and a few new challenges, too.

Dr. Tomer Malchi (above) showed me his ongoing experiments that seek to discover whether pharmaceutical drugs that are flushed out of people’s bodies end up in Israel’s crops — and supermarkets — once they are watered with treated wastewater.

The Iranian regime has a less sophisticated approach: it simply wants access to water — and fast. That is a big reason the Golan is suddenly of interest. The higher reaches — including Mount Hermon, which straddles the boundary — experience 1000-1400 millimeters of rain per year (as opposed to 200-400 in the humid Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv).

Prior to 1967, Syria had access to the Sea of Galilee, a large (though shrinking) freshwater lake that was Israel’s primary source of water for decades. Though Israel took over the eastern shore in the Six Day War, and the plateau above, the Golan still has plentiful water on both sides.

Hence the Syrian and Israeli Golan Heights remain a region of intense strategic interest. If Iran can control the Syrian side, it may be able to harness the local water resources to ease pressures — political and hydrological — back home. Conversely, if Israel can keep Iran away, it can destabilize the regime in Tehran. The details of the deal with Russia could determine the fate of the region.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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