In the regions, where surface waters are limited, as the Middle East; the use of water which is especially used by more than a country also shapes the inter-state relations. Water resources, one of the most important issues in the relations among the states, might lead to conflicts and also it might become a weapon or a target that could be used in case of a conflict-crisis-war from time to time; and it might be one of the first targets to be attacked in order to weaken the other side during this process.
As we have seen the precedents; destroying especially dams, desalination plants and water pipelines is one of these methods. As an example of using water resource as a weapon or a target, the dams generating hydroelectricity were bombed during the World War II. In 1960's, the U.S. bombed irrigation water supply system of North Vietnam. During the 1991 Gulf War, both sides targeted dams, water transmission systems and desalination plants of each others. We can see another example in the news reflected on newspapers and analyses in Libya on September 2011. It was reported that the pipeline carrying water to Tripoli was under the control of pro-Gaddafi groups, and the water flow was cut off by the sabotage of these groups. The allegation that this project, of which the total cost is stated to have been around 20 billion dollars, was damaged in this process is worrying both in terms of the right to access to water and also in terms of the damage to this big project. This project, which is successful in technical terms with every detail, is very important for the Libyan people to have an access to water and for their development. Destruction of water resources and structures further worsens living conditions of the people, who are already going through hard times because of conflict and war.
Another method is the upper riparian's cutting off the water of lower riparian especially in transboundary water basins. Especially in certain resources related to the Gulf crisis period, which affected the region and the whole world, it is mentioned that United Nations discusses cutting off the waters of Euphrates river, which originates in Turkey and is one of the important rivers meeting the water need of Iraq; and it is also stated in the same resources that Turkey does not use water as a weapon. (1) As is known, the Arab Spring that emerged in the Middle East in early 2011 has also penetrated into Syria, the neighbor of Turkey, as of March. The events taking place in Syria negatively affected the relations between the two countries which had been quite good for the last decade. The fact that the Turkish jet was shot down by the Syrian air defense systems in international waters in Mediterranean last week maximized the current tension between Turkey and Syria. Last week, articles on Turkey's closing dams on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and shutting off Syria's drinking water last week and applying pressure on Bashar Assad appeared in analyses in the external media. (2) As already stated, the fact that water is a major source for human life has always been a priority for Turkey. While Turkey stated on November 2011 that she could impose economic sanctions on Syria; Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu indicated on November 2011 that there would not be any water limitation on transboundary waters, which are important for both Syria and Iraq and originate in Turkey and flow to Syria and then to Iraq. Water resources have never been used as a threat risk or weapon in water policies Turkey has pursued so far. Turkey, who has always wanted equitable, reasonable and optimum allocation of transboundary waters especially in cooperation with Iraq and Syria that are the Euphrates-Tigris basin riparians, will not act contrary to its water policy that has been pursued for years in this current situation that the tension with Syria has further increased in the recent period.
(1) Peter Gleick, “Water and Conflict; Fresh Water Resources and International Security”, International Security, vol.18, no.1, 1993, s.85.; Matthew McDonald, “The Environment and Security: The Euphrates River”, Department of Goverment University of Queensland, s.1.
(2) “Intelligence experts: Nato has options on Assad”, 18/06/2012, online at: http://euobserver.com/24/116644