Water in the Middle East Peer Reviewed Essay

Water in the Middle East

Governments around the world have a primary concern over water availability and the Middle East and North Africa are no exception. The thesis evaluates the possibility of future wars throughout the Middle East and North Africa due to water scarcity and limited water resources presently being experienced in that region.

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The paper starts by revealing the gravity of the situation by showing the present statistics surrounding the problem of water scarcity throughout the world. Thereafter, the paper highlights the importance of water in the national economy. From then on, the paper briefly discusses the present situation of water scarcity in the Middle East by noting down the present available resources of water in the Middle East. Lastly, the paper briefly highlights the reason underlying possible future water wars in the Middle East and North Africa.

The literature review presents a concise, yet, comprehensive information about the views of pertinent authors, scholars and writers on the subject of the possibility of future wars throughout the Middle East and North Africa due to water scarcity and limited water resources presently being experienced in that region.

The results of the study reveal that not only the ever-increasing demand of water but also the limited water supplies and the decreasing sources of water will pave way for future water wars throughout the Middle East and North Africa. In addition, since Middle East has one of the fastest growing population rates in the world. This population explosion coupled with the afore-mentioned reasons will also trigger an all out war.

The paper also discovers that the present regional unrest, differences, decades old border disputes, minor conflicts and centuries of conflicts will not mellow down, but instead will serve as a catalyst in future water wars. Furthermore, the international laws and regional cooperation will not pave way for peace, but instead will escalate tension and lead the countries to war.

The paper also finds that the Middle East countries cannot economically grow at a pace that will allow them to compensate for the water scarcity problem by providing its people alternative sources of livelihood, but rather the present economic growth will stagnate due to the unavailability of water. Lastly, the issue of water pollution and newer water exploitation methods will augment the already existing mistrust and hatred amongst the Middle East and North African countries, leading them to future possible wars.

The paper concludes by briefly analyzing the findings and assessing possible variables and alternative scenarios that might be adapted by the Middle East and North African states to avert war.


It is without a shadow of doubt that countries around the world have a primary concern over water availability, with the ever-increasing population and the declining resources of water. The governments in the Middle East and North Africa are no exception to this growing problem. Presently, almost all countries in this region confront scarcity in the availability of water. With the increasing population and limited water resources available in this region, future water shortages and famine can be calamitous, catastrophic and the catalyst for future wars. Present day conflicts, peace initiatives, as well as international laws and inter-state relationships between countries in the region have water or the lack of water as a common element. This common element is considered to be the most critical factor in creating and sustaining long-term strategic relationships so that healthy initiatives can be acquired to build water resources. In the future, water could be the primary reason for nation states to go to war, particularly in this region. This paper will explore the possibility of a future breakout of war due to the scarcity of water throughout the Middle East.


The threat of water scarcity faced by developing counties, in general, and the Middle East countries, in particular, is very severe. This can be gauged from the fact that approximately 40% of the present population confronts water scarcity, while it has been assumed by experts that by 2050, approximately 65% of the world’s populations will be facing water famine. Furthermore, it has also been anticipated that the most threatened region is the Middle East and North Africa, where analysts assert that future wars will be almost certainly based on the control of water resources (Ashok Swain, 1998).

The Importance of the availability of Water

It is without a shadow of doubt that the availability of water is the most vital element of human life, as life cannot exist without it. The availability of neither food nor clothing is as important as the availability of fresh and clean water. This is because it is not only the most important element in the protection of the human environment and atmosphere but also the most essential factor in the growth and development of the strong economies and healthy financial and societal systems. Furthermore, water is used in producing cheap hydro-electricity and energy, industrial production and agricultural escalation and amplification. However, with the increase in population at an alarming rate (more than half a million per day); the requirement of the availability of fresh water is becoming more and more critical. Since this requirement has not been met in the world at large, the per capita consumption of water has been reduced from 33,300 cubic meters per annum in 1850 to 8500 cubic meters per annum in the mid-1990’s (Ashok Swain, 1997).

At present, as mentioned above, approximately 40% of the world’s population is dealing with the scarcity of water. In fact, hundreds and thousands of humans travel all year long in search of water. They live their lives like nomads and remain in one place until they have utilized the water resources. While, this picture is very noticeable in the Middle East countries, more and more countries are joining the listing of such countries. Experts fear that if the present situation is not given the due attention, then by the middle of this century, almost 65% of the world’s population will be confronting water scarcity and famine (Steve Lonergan, 1996). The gravity of the situation in the Middle East can be gauged from the fact that in the mid-1990’s almost 8 countries from this region fell below the international standards of “absolute water scarcity,” while many others had been on the brink of falling below the redline (Robert Engelman and Pamela LeRoy, 1993). This situation occurs when the yearly per capita fresh water accessibility of a nation drops below 500 cubic meters. These 8 countries in the Middle East faced inbuilt problems and difficulties of water scarcity that severely threatened the public healthcare structure, as well as, hindered the growth and development of the socio-economic system. To add to the difficulty, these regions have one of the highest population growth rates in the world. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to determine the fate of countries if their water resources come to a stand still while their population is rapidly growing at the rate of more than 3% (Ashok Swain, 1996).

However, things have started to lighten up, just a little bit. As the Middle East countries are now looking for alternatives to develop, their water resources. While, throughout Middle East history, people had used ground water resources for their domestic and agricultural uses, it is worth noting here that no such development of acquiring “perennial water resources” took place at the official level. However, with the rapid increase in the population and even quicker urbanization, the local methods of acquiring water turned out to be insufficient for the ever-increasing population. Therefore, the governments in the Middle East, with the help of international institutions, started developing large water resource projects. These projects have been a welcome change in the region severely hit by water scarcity (Peter Beaumont, Gerald H. Blake, J. And Malcolm Wagstaff, 1988).

Presently Available Water Resources in the Middle East

Peter Beaumont, Gerald H. Blake, J. And Malcolm Wagstaff (1988) reveal that by utilizing the “Thornthwaite method” to evaluate the water quantity, it is clear that excessive water is available in the northern part of the Middle East. This can be illustrated from the fact that the highest water-surplus, which is 2400 mm per year, has been discovered at the eastern border of the Black Sea in the northeastern side of Turkey. The writers point out that other regions in the Middle East, where surplus water is available are the Elburz mountains ranges beside the edge of the Caspian Sea, mountains ranges bordering the Mediterranean shores of Turkey and the Black Sea, in the mountain ranges located in eastern part of Turkey, in the coastline of Lebanon and Syria, as well as, in dispersed areas all through the Zagros Mountain ranges (Peter Beaumont, Gerald H. Blake, J. And Malcolm Wagstaff, 1988).

The downside of the entire scenario is that while the size of the Middle East is very large, there exist only three rivers in the entire region, namely, the Euphrates, the Nile, and Tigris. All these rivers can be classified as large by international values. While on one hand, the Nile gets the highest discharge from rainfall on the highlands of Ethiopia and upland plateau of East Africa, located well outside the Middle East region; on the other hand, discharge points of the other two rivers, Euphrates and Tigris, are positioned well within the Middle East region, prevailing mostly in Turkey, Syria along with Iraq. In other areas, recurrent river systems are restricted to the more northern upland areas of Iran and Turkey, in common with the coastline of Levant (Peter Beaumont, Gerald H. Blake, J. And Malcolm Wagstaff, 1988).

The conflict in the Future

It is widely believed by many experts that those who control the waters in the Middle East; control the Middle East; and those who control the Middle East; control the oil supply of the world (David M. Hummel, 1995). From the above mentioned facts it is clear that the water resources in Middle East are limited and as a result, a race has been triggered to acquire control over the limited water reserves in the Middle East. This race of acquiring control over the limited water reserves has resulted in putting the countries involved in this race in a state of constant conflict. It is also worth noting that at present, no international basin-based agreements on using the river waters have been accorded as all the countries feel that they will be the losers in such a scenario and therefore have been reluctant to enter an accord. Furthermore, no individual state can create its water development plans as by doing so, it triggers other countries to perceive those plans as a threat to their national interest. Many experts believe that only an international agreement amongst the nations involved can solve the present crisis and end the threat of war. This is because the international rivers in this region cannot be fully utilized, unless all the countries in the Middle East reach an agreement and abide by it and because the only way to address the problem of water scarcity in the region is by fully utilizing the available water resources. Furthermore, many countries in the region do not realize that water is a limited commodity as they feel that their basic right to access water resources is being violated by other countries in the region. The population is the Middle East is also not standing still and the environment is also not very colorful. In fact, Middle East has one of the highest population growth rates and also has very dry and sunny weathers. While many countries have detested and ostracized the exploitation of their water resources, they have also, in the meantime, looked for alternatives sources of water. This is evident from the fact that many Middle East countries have installed desalinization plants so that they may fulfill the scarcity of water through these alternatives. However, it is worth noting here that desalinization plants are not a cheap alternative and they cannot fulfill the larger purposes of water, such as, use in irrigation and creating energy. This is because the technology is still in its infancy and the cost of operating such desalinization plants makes them unaffordable for those purposes. Furthermore, many countries have proposed the linking of the Red Sea with the Dead Sea (and calling it Red-Dead Canal) or the Mediterranean Sea with the Dead Sea (and calling it Med-Dead Sea). Experts believe that these proposals can turn out to be extremely costly and at the same time not yield effective results. Furthermore, implementation of such a proposal will also severely harm the ecology of the region (David M. Hummel, 1995).

The way of life in the larger part of Middle East is also not very humble and modest as the discovery of oil and the money earned through its export has led the people of this region to live an extremely luxurious life. This approach has added to the complexity of water scarcity as expensive way of life means excessive water consumption. Therefore, the present approach of using water cannot be and should not be allowed to continue and there is an urgent requirement to cut down the unnecessary utilization of water, throughout the region. However, it is worth noting that while a lot of time has been wasted in finger-pointing and a lot of resources have been wasted on expensive alternative sources of water, very little, in fact, nothing is being done to cut down the uncalled for usage of water.

Many analysts had predicted that war would eventually break out, if the scarcity of water and other issues related to it are not resolved. Furthermore, these theories had further been established when, in the 1980’s, the American intelligence services predicted that no less than 10 regions will confront war situations due to the scarcity in the availability of fresh and clean water. Amongst the 10 places predicted, majority of them had been in the Middle East and North Africa (World resource Institute, 1991). While these predictions had been given almost 2 decades ago and the water wars have not yet taken place, the threat of these wars taking place in the near future is highly likely. This is because almost all the countries in this region, where water is scarce, depend on importing the surface water of internationally distributed river systems (Sharif S. Elmusa, 1996).

In the future, when the demand for fresh water will increase manifold, these river systems will turn out to be the front line zone of regional conflicts amongst the Middle East countries. Many of these future conflicts are already taking shape in the form of active resistance by the countries sharing the water of the river system. Therefore, an in depth study on the possibility of future water wars in the Middle East is imperative so that one can assess the stakes and interests of the countries involved and offer alternative solutions. Having understood the importance and significance of water in the Middle East and the complexities underlying the usage in a brief yet concise manner, we will now assess the reviews of other notable scholars on this subject.


Will the ever-increasing demand of water lead the Middle East countries to the brink of an all out war?

Will the limited water supplies and the decreasing sources of water pave way for future water wars throughout the Middle East and North Africa?

Since Middle East has one of the fastest growing population rates in the world. Will this population explosion coupled with the ever-increasing demand of water and the limited water supplies lead the countries of this region to future water war?

Will the present regional unrest, differences, decades old border disputes, minor conflicts and centuries of conflicts mellow down or will they serve as a catalyst in future water wars?

Will international laws and regional cooperation pave way for peace or will they escalate tension and lead the countries to war?

Can Middle East countries economically grow at a pace that will allow them to compensate for the water scarcity problem by providing its people alternative sources of livelihood? Or will the present economic growth stagnate due to the unavailability of water?

Will water pollution and newer water exploitation methods augment the already existing mistrust and hatred amongst the Middle East and North African countries?

Review of Related Literature

Many writers and scholars have shown fears regarding the scarcity of water in the Middle East asserting that if the present situation is allowed to continue then water wars are inevitable. Ehrlich (1972) and Gleick (2000) believe that scarcity of water resources will turn out to be a burden on the population and will also hinder economic growth and development. This burden and hindrance will pave way for social unrest, which will lead the nations to civil and possible regional wars. However, another school of thought argues in favor of water scarcity as being a catalyst for technological and political change. Wolf (2000) believes that the present water scarcity will lead the Middle East countries to look for better and cheaper alternatives, thereby encouraging them to invest in the Research and Development (R&D) of fresh water creation and water management systems. As a result, these countries will eventually embark upon a journey that will lead to creativity, more social awareness amongst its people and in doing so they will perhaps find better alternatives and better utilization of water resources (Wolf, 2000).

However, Lundqvist and Gleick (2000) differ with the theory of Wolf (2000), while agreeing with Ehrlich (1972). They too believe that if the basic needs are not fulfilled over a longer period of time so that they may live a reasonable life style, then environmental commotion and wide spread misery, anguish and pain will be the outcome; and if such a situation is allowed to continue then war will be the eventual consequence (Lundqvist and Gleick, 2000).

Gleick (2000) argues that the real reason behind the war between Israel and Lebanon had been the persistence of Lebanon to construct a water pump on the Wazzani Spring, which is a branch of the Jordon River. This war, the writer argues, had been a result of decades of famine, suspicion, conflict, scarcity of basic needs for growth and development and inter-regional clashes. Furthermore, the writer also reveals the emotional aspect of the conflict, as many in the Middle East countries view water scarcity with a lot of negative emotions towards their not-so-friendly-neighbors (Gleick, 2000).

Similarly, a report on water scarcity throughout the world predicts the threat of war breakout due to water scarcity not decreasing with time as population is growing at a rapid pace and the need to fulfill the water requirements of this growing population is not being dealt with. As a result, very few people will have access to fresh and clean water. The remaining population will be indulging in civil and regional wars to acquire their basic human right (Solutions for a water -short world 1998). These views have been often reiterated by others, in fact, more and more scholars, researchers and writers are expressing their fears of an all out war, particularly, in the Middle East.

Landau (2000) asserts that States in the Middle East realize the discrepancy involved with the scarcity of water and its impact on the society. This can be gauged from the fact that when the relationship between Israel and Syria had been on its lowest, the then Deputy Defense Minister of Israel demanded “security and water” in return for extensive territorial concessions (Landau, 2000).

Zunes (2002) asserts that the threat of future water wars in the Middle East is not an unknown phenomenon. He highlights several leaders of the international institutions, regional organizations and nation states to substantiate his claim. Zunes (2002) asserts that while many scholars believe that war is the eventual outcome of water scarcity, there may be other consequences as human nature and its responses to certain specific circumstances can be wide ranging. He believes that the Middle East countries can also get into a peaceful regional water-accord and thereby minimize and threat of water war. While this possibility is very doubtful, at present times, but the future cannot be completely predicted. The Middle East countries can also continue along the same lines of water scarcity for a longer period of time without indulging into warfare. However, having revealed all possible outcomes to the present scenario, he does not rule out the possibility of war (Zunes, 2002).

O’Tuathail (2000) highlights the present discrepancy of water scarcity and the claims put forward by the countries in the Middle East. He argues that the problem of territorial waters claims is a much more complex and profound term than it has been assumed presently. He adds that these wrong interpretations of territorial claims of water are motivated by the powers and the monopolies of the State governments, its geography and its identity (O’Tuathail, 2000).

Bowman (1946) asserts that the entire phenomenon of water scarcity in the Middle East will turn out to be a major source of conflict in the future. He writes about the emotional involvement of the people of this region with not only their lands but also their resources. This he says can be seen from the thousands of graves of heroes that died in order to protect and serve their respective countries (Bowman, 1946).

Gomez — Rivas (2001) discusses the present situation in the Middle East and reviews the present conflict between two very hostile neighbors, Israel and Lebanon. He highlights the complexities of the present conflict and predicts escalation of these conflicts into an all out war between the two hostile neighbors. He elaborates on the Lebanon’s Hasbani resource of water, which Lebanon claims, Israel has been using for the past two and half decades without paying any dues. The rise in tension between the two neighbors came when Lebanon demanded compensation from Israel for the use of their water. Israel instead responded with aggression and threatened severe action if Lebanon tried to damage Israeli Interest in the region. This, the writer asserts is a typical response given by one Middle East State in response to water claims put forward by another Middle East State (Gomez — “Rivas, 2001).

Bar’el (2001) discusses the gravity of the present water scarcity situation in the Middle East and describes the amount of mistrust amongst the hostile neighbors. He cites numerous incidents of aggression of one country against its neighbors over the use of water. He writes that when one country decides to utilize the water resources from the rivers passing through its territory and provides the details of its plans to all its neighbors. The neighboring countries show signs of concerns and start creating tension in the region. For instance, when Lebanon decided to construct a small pump along the shores of the Wazzani Spring so that the people of the nearby villages can acquire water from the pump and start earning a small amount of income through agriculture, the Israeli government at first agreed and decided to cooperate with Lebanon. However, the Israeli media created unnecessary havoc of the entire situation and made the people believe that Lebanon is trying to deprive the Israeli people from the use of Wazzani Spring water. This led to an outcry throughout Israel, which eventually forced the Israeli government to stop the cooperation and take up a position of aggression and stop Lebanon from constructing a pump. These scenarios are typical throughout the Middle East and the writer asserts that this behavior and attitude is not only the main hurdle between any form of either an international agreement over the use of water or regional cooperation and trust but will also turn out to be the most significant catalyst of future water wars throughout the Middle East (Bar’el, 2001).

Reeves’ (2001) highlights the present water scarcity throughout the Middle East and predicts that the present situation should not be allowed to continue because it will eventually force the neighbors to go to war over the use of water. He highlights several incidents that reveal not only the attitude of the governments but also the level of mistrust and hatred amongst the Middle East countries. He believes that the predictions of future water wars are an inevitable scenario because not only very limited water resources are available but also there is a lot of unnecessary utilization of water in many areas throughout the Middle East (Reeves, 2001).

O’Sullivan and Keinon (2001) highlight the gravity of the present water scarcity situation by revealing the view points of prominent scholars and important personalities in the Middle East. They also highlight several incidents that had taken place in recent years to show the dilemma confronted by the hostile neighbors. They believe that the only solution to the present problem is that the countries put aside their differences and try to come up with an accepted formula of water sharing. This approach, the writers assert, is the only solution to the decades old problem of water scarcity throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The writers also highlight the present resources of water and the amount of water being used from these resources and fear that the future will bring noting but chaos and misery as the population in the Middle East is growing at an alarming rate and the growth and development of water resources are at a standstill (O’Sullivan and Keinon 2001).

Rinat (2001) highlights the role of the media in the entire water scarcity scenario and the related mistrust and hatred amongst the neighbors. The writer asserts that the media refuses to highlight the unnecessary utilization and exploitation of water resources by the Arab world; the media does not expose monopolies and political games being played by the powers that be. Instead, the media, almost instantly shows signs of panic and terror when two countries are about to reach an understanding over the use of water. The latter, the writer asserts, takes place because of years of drought and famine throughout the Middle East, while the former takes place because of lack of freedom and media restraint and containment.

Benn (2001) also reveals the threat of future wars and discrepancy surrounding the present utilization of water resources in the Middle East and North Africa. He cites incidents that expose the underlying motives of the governments and the establishment and their lack of concern and apathies surrounding the water issue.

Immanuel Kant (1795) predicted that a world fully of real and genuine democracy will pave for peace and serenity throughout the world. The question here is, whether democracy in the Middle East can help resolve the problem of water scarcity and diffuse the tension associated with this calamity. Hess and Orphanides (2001) analyze the workings of the present democracies and conclude by disagreeing that democracy will be of any help in resolving conflicts and ending the wars hysteria. Instead, they believe that global cooperation, coordination and collaboration will edge the countries to move in the direction of peace, rather than war. These analyses are helpful as many authors have asserted that the only viable solution to the problem of water scarcity and averting the threat of war is regional understanding and cooperation.

Schiff (2001) Panossian (2001) highlights the role of the American administration in diffusing the tension surrounding the entire water scarcity problem in the Middle East. Similarly, Maynes (1998), Amery (1997) and many others have highlighted the problems associated with water and predict an all out future water war throughout the Middle East and North Africa. For case in point, Maynes (1998) believes that the prediction of future water wars is a lot close to reality because the establishments in this region believe that the only way to gain access to the immeasurable resources of water, oil and other minerals is through war. He writes, “In the Middle East, it will still be true that war will pay in a way that it will not in most other regions. Victory may bring land that offers more resources — either water or oil. Had Iraq won the Gulf War, it would have had more oil (Maynes, 1998).”


This dissertation is a case study of the possibility of future wars throughout the Middle East and North Africa due to water scarcity and limited water resources presently being experienced in that region.

Collection of Data

The tactic involved in this process collection of relevant data has been that concise and yet comprehensive information related to the topic (the possibility of future wars throughout the Middle East and North Africa due to water scarcity and limited water resources presently being experienced in that region) has been compiled from articles published in various scientific journals and magazines by individual researchers, as well as, research institutions. Both, online resources and offline resources have been used to compile the data.

Data analysis and Search tactics

The data analysis and search tactic depended on manifold means so as to guarantee the most advantageous totality of facts and statistics available. At the outset a comprehensive literature exploration had been performed by means of internet, as well as, university and public library, as mentioned above. In this manner the bulk of published information relating to the topic (the possibility of future wars throughout the Middle East and North Africa due to water scarcity and limited water resources presently being experienced in that region) had been distinguished, initially, and compiled, subsequently.

The analytical strategy employed in this paper has firstly identified the gravity of the situation at hand relating to the possibility of future wars throughout the Middle East and North Africa due to water scarcity and limited water resources presently being experienced in that region. Appropriate theories and facts have been given to prove not only the seriousness of the situation but also the validity of the arguments. Also, a brief overview is given of the present situation in the Middle East by evaluating the strengths, weaknesses of the present water resources and the emerging opportunities and threats in the region due to water scarcity. Furthermore, the most pertinent and possible factors relating to future water wars have been analyzed and thereafter a through examination of possible variables and alternates have been conducted. Lastly, the paper predicts possible future Middle East and North Africa hydro-based conflicts.

As mentioned above, factors augmenting the water conflict are several, but only the most relevant ones have been discussed in this thesis so that the relevancy of the argument can be sustained throughout the paper. Furthermore, the use of quotations, throughout the thesis, denotes the diverse opinions of the most expert personnel in the pertinent field. The observations and views expressed by leading analysts’ offers support to the various assertions presented in this thesis.

Limitations of the Study

It is imperative to analytically assess the outcome and the entire thesis. This is because this thesis has some limitations that should be observed when taking into consideration the importance of the thesis and its assistance. This thesis has concentrated on a subject that has been an extremely large and leading one, that is, the possibility of future wars throughout the Middle East and North Africa due to water scarcity and limited water resources presently being experienced in that region. Undoubtedly, this characterizes an extremely difficult assignment for research in spite of the more precise interests that the thesis might have. This wide-ranging and difficult subject has been analyzed from a somewhat limited experimental perception. The choice of the single thesis design obviously draws out numerous limitations in so far as the simplification of the outcome of the thesis is involved. Consequently, the thesis setting can simply be termed as a sort of direct framework of the past and present trends in the Middle East.

One more limitation of this case study has been the viewpoint assumed. Rather than attempting to comprehend the entire situation in the Middle East, which includes, poverty, disease, religious and ethnic conflicting ideologies; this thesis has been primarily limited to the possibility of future wars throughout the Middle East and North Africa due to water scarcity and limited water resources presently being experienced in that region. Even though the thesis has also considered additional observations and brief analysis of border disputes and centuries of conflicts in the region, the most important point-of-view from which results have been sketched is that of the possibility of future wars throughout the Middle East and North Africa due to water scarcity and limited water resources presently being experienced in that region.


The results of the research reveal that there is a high probability of future water wars in the Middle East. The factors that will lead these countries to water wars are several, however, the most pertinent and realistic ones have been analyzed in this paper so that the most factual informative analysis can be done.

Geographic Location

At the root of the problem of limited water resources is the physical geography of the Middle East, for this region is one of the most arid in the world. Descending air (which can hold more moisture) and prevailing northeast trade winds that blow from a continental interior region to a warmer, more southerly location explain why almost all of the Middle East is dry (Munther J. Hardening, 2002).”

As briefly discussed above, Middle East region takes up a very large place on planet earth, but unfortunately, this largeness is not backed by suitable water resources. The lack of water availability, thus, plays a critical role in the geo-politics of the whole Middle East. Adding to this conflict is the cultural and ethnic diversity, which augments the already deteriorating relationship amongst the Middle East countries. “The Middle East is a region comprising the lands around the southern and eastern parts of the Mediterranean Sea, a territory that extends from the eastern Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. The Middle East is a sub-region of Africa-Eurasia, or more specifically, Asia, and sometimes North Africa. The area encompasses several cultural and ethnic groups, including the Persian, Arabic, and Turkish cultures. The four main language groups are Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and Hebrew (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_East).”

Since, the Middle East region is relatively large and contains many ethnic, cultural and religious groups; it has been difficult to give a specific name to the entire region, one that best describes the geographic position. “Most definitions of Middle East in established dictionaries and common usage are ‘nations in Southwest Asia from Iran (Persia) to Egypt’. Hence, Egypt, with her Sinai Peninsula in Asia while mostly in North Africa, is commonly also considered as ‘Middle East’. North African nations without Asian links like Libya, Tunisia and Morocco are increasingly being called North Africa instead, in contrast to Middle Eastern (Iran to Egypt – Asia) by international media (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_East).” While this does not relate to the problem of water scarcity, it does demonstrate the level of difficulty the international community has had while dealing with the nations of this region.

Almost all the countries in this region either had been in conflict with their regional neighbors or are still in conflict with one another. This adds to the complexity of the water scarcity problem because these added conflicts create an atmosphere of turbulence, disorder and mistrust and all these factors greatly influence the problem associated with the scarcity of water. The countries in this region can neither enter an accord with one another nor develop and craft individual plans because both are perceived by other countries in the region as a threat to their national interest. These countries in return threaten to act aggressively. The countries that comprise the Middle East region are: “Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey, Iran (Persia), Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and the Palestinian Territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The countries of the Maghreb (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia) are frequently linked to the Middle East due to their strong historical and cultural associations, as is Sudan. The African countries Mauritania and Somalia also have links to the region. Turkey and Cyprus, although geographically inside or close to the Middle East, consider themselves to be part of Europe. Iran is usually taken to be the eastern border, although the Middle East is occasionally considered to include Afghanistan as well (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_East).”

The cultural and ethnic conflict can be gauged from the fact that many in this region have been very critical of the term “Middle East” coined and used widely for this region. They believe this term is tilting towards Eurocentrism. “Eurocentrism is the practice, conscious or otherwise, of placing emphasis on European (and, generally, Western) concerns, culture and values at the expense of those of other cultures. It is an instance of ethnocentrism, perhaps especially relevant because of its alignment with current and past real power structures in the world.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurocentrism)

This unnecessary criticism reveals the amount of hatred the people in this region have against the west. This also shows, to some extent, why international mediation has miserably failed to bring the concerned parties to an accord where all countries can share the limited water resources and mutually look forward for better alternatives of water sources. “Some have criticized the term Middle East for its perceived Eurocentrism. The region is only east from the perspective of Western Europe. To an Indian, it lies to the west; to a Russian, it lies to the south. The description Middle has also led to some confusion over changing definitions (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_East).”

Conclusion of this Section

It is clear from the above mentioned facts that the cultural and ethnic diversity and the ideology that “what is different is evil,” have caused widespread hatred against not only their neighbors but also against the West and the Europeans. This attitude has had a great deal of influence in the present events taking place throughout the Middle East. It can also be considered as one of the underlying reasons for their failure to reach water-sharing accords, while enhancing the possibility of future water wars.

Regional tension, disharmony, and centuries of conflict

The present turmoil in the inter-state relationship throughout the Middle East has its roots in the re-creation of Israel and the subsequent withdrawal of the colonial powers from Europe. After the second world, the American interest in the Middle East grew massively because of its huge oil reserves. Thus imperialist monopoly started throughout the region and this severely disturbed the establishment of this region. “The reestablishment of Israel, the departure of the European powers from direct control of the region, and the increasing importance of the oil industry, marked the creation of the modern Middle East. These developments led to a growing presence of the United States in Middle East affairs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Middle_East).” Many authors believe that it is in the interest of America and other western nations that the turmoil and chaos continues. The discrepancy surrounding the problem of water scarcity and the misuse of the existing water resources is nothing but a ploy to pressurize the oil rich regimes in the Middle East to succumb to the growing western demands of energy.

The Arabs had been very unhappy because of not only the unstinted American support to Israel and the growing Britain-Israeli-American nexus but also because of the imperialist plans to gain access and control over the vast oil reserves. Therefore, the Arabs turned towards the Soviets for help and this paradigm change in the Middle East brought with it the anti-western regimes, throughout the Middle East, in general, and the Arab world, in particular. However, both the Soviets and the Arabs had failed miserably in bringing any sort of relief to its people. “The U.S. was Israel’s principal ally and protector, the ultimate guarantor of the stability of the region, and from the 1950s the dominant force in the oil industry. When republican revolutions brought radical anti-western regimes to power in Egypt in 1954, in Syria in 1963, in Iraq in 1968 and in Libya in 1969, the Soviet Union, seeking to open a new arena of the Cold War in the Middle East, allied itself with Arab rulers such as Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Saddam Hussein of Iraq. These regimes gained support through their promises to destroy Israel, defeat the U.S. And other ‘western imperialists,’ and to bring prosperity to the Arab masses, usually by means of some form of socialism. When they failed to do any of these things, they became increasingly despotic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Middle_East).”

The Americans had been extremely disturbed by the developments taking place throughout the region, particularly, the tilt of the most of the Arab world towards Soviet Union. Therefore, the Americans felt obliged to protect the remaining countries in the Middle East, regardless of their political structures. Many of there states had been actively pursuing policies that had been in direct conflict with the American policies. For instance, Saudi Arabia had devoted a lot of resources to the destruction of Israel, while America had been and still are the biggest supporters of its creation. “In response to this challenge to its interests in the region, the U.S. felt obliged to defend its remaining allies, the conservative monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran and the Persian Gulf emirates, whose methods of rule were almost as unattractive to western eyes as those of the anti-western regimes. Iran in particular became a key U.S. ally, until a revolution led by the Shi’a clergy overthrew the monarchy in 1979 and established a theocratic regime which was even more anti-western than the secular regimes in Iraq or Syria. This forced the U.S. into a close alliance with Saudi Arabia, a reactionary, corrupt and oppressive monarchy, and a regime, moreover, dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Thus, the U.S. soon found itself just as embroiled in the contradictions of Middle East politics as the British and French had been (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Middle_East).”

Many conflicts had arisen over the use of water, however, there had been many wars fought over conflicting ideologies. These wars added to the complications of resolving the water scarcity problem and allowing the Middle East countries to come to an understanding of some sort over the distribution of the limited water reserves. This has not only added to the misery of the people of this region, but also is being considered a major factor in future water wars. “The successive defeats of the Arab armies at the hands of the Israelis in 1948, 1967 and 1973 persuaded the exiled Palestinians, and many other Arabs, that the Arab regimes could not defeat this new western intrusion into the region. The Israeli occupation of the remaining Palestinian territories (the West Bank and Gaza) in 1967 turned out to be permanent, creating an even more intractable Palestinian problem, made worse by systematic Israeli settlement in the territories. Although Arabs often recalled their successful eviction of the Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries, Israel’s much greater population, and its continuing support from the United States, meant that no modern-day Saladin could hope to destroy it by conventional military means (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Middle_East).”

After the fall of the soviet empire, the Arab states and others had become very perturbed as the balance of power in the world had sharply inclined towards the United States of America. The hope for peace and regional water sharing accords had been further dampened, when a large number of Jews started migrating from the ex-Soviet Union member states to Israel, there by giving the message to the Arabs and the wider Middle East that the interest of the sole super power in the world, the United States of America, is in the well-being of its cold war ally, Israel. This development led to another transformation in the Middle East countries. Previously, almost all Middle East had a socialist system of governance, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the tilt of America towards the Israeli’s, the Middle East states turned towards nationalism. “The fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism in the early 1990s had several consequences for the Middle East. It allowed large numbers of Jews to emigrate from Russia and Ukraine to Israel, further strengthening the Jewish state. It cut off the easiest source of credit, armaments and diplomatic support to the anti-western Arab regimes, weakening their position. It opened up the prospect of cheap oil from Russia, driving down the price of oil and reducing the west’s dependence on oil from the Arab states. And it discredited the Stalinist model of development through authoritarian state socialism which Egypt (under Nasser), Algeria, Syria and Iraq had been following since the 1960s, leaving these regimes politically and economically stranded. Rulers such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq increasingly turned to Arab nationalism as a substitute for socialism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Middle_East).”

The westerners site many reasons for regional tension and conflicts. One of the fundamental reasons, cited frequently has been the lack of democracy throughout the Middle East. Almost all the countries in this region have autocratic styles of governance, the will and desire of the people has been neglected by the rulers and therefore, in order to maintain their share in the corridors of powers, these kings and dictators play dirty games to acquire political gains. “By the 1990s, many western commentators (and some Middle Eastern ones) saw the Middle East as not just a zone of conflict, but also a zone of backwardness. The rapid spread of political democracy and the development of market economies in Eastern Europe, Latin America, East Asia and parts of Africa passed the Middle East by. In the whole region, only Israel and Turkey were democracies. Other countries had legislative bodies, but these had little power, and in some cases the majority of the population could not vote, as they were guest workers and not citizens (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Middle_East).”

Another reason frequently cited for water scarcity problem and the failure of any regional water sharing accords has been the lack of accountability and justice in the Middle East. These factors have not only allowed the rich and the powerful to get away with the most outrageous wrongdoings, but have also put the entire region in a state of backwardness, not allowing economic growth and development. “In most Middle Eastern countries, the growth of market economies was inhibited by political restrictions, corruption and cronyism, overspending on arms and prestige projects, and overdependence on oil revenues. The successful economies in the region were those which combined oil wealth with low populations, such as Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. In these states, the ruling emirs allowed a certain degree of political and social liberalization, yet without giving up any of their own power. The emirs were considered liberal in comparison to their neighbors, but conservative compared to the west. Lebanon, after a prolonged civil war in the 1980s, also rebuilt a fairly successful economy.”

The state of backwardness, throughout the Middle East had become so apparent that the Western scholars and theorists started becoming very concerned about the future of this region. While, almost all other economies in Asia had gone past the economies of countries in this region, the rate of growth in population had also been very alarming. Many scholars had demanded that the West should push these countries towards democracy so that a balanced political system can be given to people and thereby ensuring stability and peace in the region, which later on may also pave way for a solution of the water scarcity problem through regional water accords. “By the end of the 1990s, the Middle East as a whole was falling behind not only Europe, but also behind India, Mainland China and other rapidly developing market economies, in terms of production, trade, education, communications and virtually every other criterion of economic and social progress. The assertion that, if oil was subtracted, the total exports of the whole Arab world were less than those of Finland was frequently quoted in the West. The theories of authors such as David Pryce-Jones, that the Arabs were trapped in a “cycle of backwardness” from which their culture would not allow them to escape, were widely accepted in the west (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Middle_East).”

It is clear that all attempts of acquiring peace and stability in the region through regional accords had the provisions of water-sharing as a common element. However, all these agreements subsequently failed as neither party had the willingness to go through with the implementation of these accords. Violence and more violence had been the end result killing more and more people and causing unrest throughout the Middle East. For instance, “The failure of the attempt by Bill Clinton to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians at Camp David in 2000 (2000 Camp David Summit) led directly to the election of Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister of Israel and to the Al-Aqsa Intifada, characterized by suicide bombing of Israeli civilian targets. This was the first major outbreak of violence since the Oslo Peace Accords of 1993 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Middle_East).”

Furthermore, the complications in the region grew when the secular forces in the region failed miserably, leading the radical and extremist forces to take over. The complications for the West grew because these imperceptive and insensitive groups idolized violence and believed that violence is the only solution to the present problems, which includes the water scarcity problem confronted throughout the Middle East. “At the same time, the failures of most of the Arab regimes and the bankruptcy of secular Arab radicalism led a section of educated Arabs (and other Muslims) to embrace Islamism, promoted both by the Shi’a clerics of Iran and by the powerful Wahhabist sect of Saudi Arabia. Many of the militant Islamists gained military training while fighting against the forces of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Middle_East).”

However, the event of 9/11 brought a paradigm change in the policies of the West, particularly, of United States of America. These militant groups became intolerable and thus not worthy of negotiations. Invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq passed the message to not only these militant groups but also to the Arab regimes that their dirty games of politics are over and that democracy and liberalism is the only solution to avert American aggression. In turn, these regimes tried to upset the American plans for the Middle East, but so far their efforts have been futile as the Americans have shown a great deal of resilience and toughness. “The advent of a new western army of occupation in a Middle Eastern capital marked a turning point in the history of the region. If the U.S. succeeded in transforming Iraq into a prosperous and stable democratic state, the consequences for the region might be great. The consequences of failure would also be very far-reaching. In early 2004 it was still not clear whether the U.S. project in Iraq would succeed even to the extent of holding elections there, or to transforming the Middle East. By the end of 2004, it seems clear the democratic election will commence in spite of efforts to prevent it by the neighboring totalitarian regimes in Iran, and Syria.”

Conclusion of this section

From the above mentioned facts it is clear that political and radical religious ideologies being practiced throughout the region, the imperial ambitions to seize control of oil and other natural resources, the backward and ignorant societies, the autocratic and extremely conservative systems of governance, lack of accountability and widespread injustice have been the fundamental reasons for regional tension, disharmony, and centuries of conflict, and these factors may well pave way for future water wars.

Vague international and national laws.

The absence of clear and lucid international laws has made the situation more troublesome. Majority of the regimes in the Middle East have resorted to violence, militancy and state terrorism in order to acquire, what they consider, their birthright. Religion has added further misery and complications as the radicalism has taken over moderation and enlightenment in almost every aspect of life. “Middle Eastern nations in the past have illustrated their willingness to resort to force in settling disputes over issues less serious than shortage of water, which is not only the source of life, but also lies at the heart of the basic beliefs of the majority who follow the three monolithic religions of the region, as well as ancient beliefs and mythologies that still the base of social life today – like Egypt and the Nile, or the inhabitants of the marshes in southern Iraq (Adel Darwish, (http://www.mideastnews.com/WaterWars.htm).”

Absence of international laws has also paved way for barbaric rules and regulations. Almost all the countries in this region have resorted to intimidation and coercion leaving very little hope for peace and stability. The agreements that have been reached have not been implemented as the endorsing parties consider it unfair. “Few agreements have been reached about how the water should be shared; most of those agreements are seen as un-just: upstream countries believe that they should control the flow of the rivers, taking what they like, if they can get away with it. Example Turkey. Downstream, where the states are often more advanced and militarily stronger they have always challenged this assumption, like Egypt and Israel. It is a recipe for confrontation (Adel Darwish, (http://www.mideastnews.com/WaterWars.htm)”

Many peace loving and progressive forces have made efforts to conjure the concerned groups onto the negotiating table but that too has resulted in despondent failure. The regimes in the Middle East are simply unwilling to let go of their traditions, as by doing so, there is a possibility that the radical forces might take over the power centers leaving the present establishment high and dry. “International law is not clear on the shared water courses, rivers or cross border aquifers. Water cannot be owned, but the methods by which an individual, a group, a legal entity or a nation can store, transfer and regulate the flow of water, makes this person in control i.e. his hand on the tap. Governments, organizations and individuals negotiate agreements using a mixture of customary use, local and tradition laws, and the established right of use over a period of time – not specified. Such mixture is often contradictory and in itself a cause of conflict (Adel Darwish, (http://www.mideastnews.com/WaterWars.htm).”

Since majority of the counties in the Middle East are Muslim nations, they have a strong tendency to look towards their religious laws. The problem stemming from this approach is that these laws had been stipulated almost 1400 years ago and at that time, the concept of nation state did not exist in the Middle East, only tribes and tribal laws existed. Therefore, the laws had been crafted to look after the interest of the tribe. Humans have greatly progressed since then but unfortunately the laws that govern the Muslim society have not changed, not because their religion is rigid and unyielding, but because the people who are following it are thickheaded and intellectually bankrupt. “The Islamic laws – or shari’aa – and incidentally stem from a word meaning the sharing of water-, of which many Arab countries based their water use rules- predates the Mohammedan belief and is based on the harsh rules of the desert: example the people who dig a well have the first right of use, but they cannot deny the use – for drinking – to man or beast. A man lowering a container into a well will have full possession of only the amount of water that fills it at that precise moment…and so on (Adel Darwish, (http://www.mideastnews.com/WaterWars.htm).”

Furthermore, the interpretation of the Islamic laws has been fine-tuned to mesh with the interests of the present establishments in the Middle East. The establishments’ vested interests lie in maintaining their control over the people by allowing them to remain ignorant. As a result, they further complicate the process of peace by moving towards hostility and aggression. “Muslim Fundamentalists, currently active in the region, have recently begun to include the water issue in their radical literature as they interpret the laws of water sharing with non-Muslims along Islamic lines in a way designed to deploy water as another weapon to continue few ongoing conflicts in the region (Adel Darwish, (http://www.mideastnews.com/WaterWars.htm).”

While many scholars have asserted that international laws exist in order to assist the regional neighbors to avert conflicts and militancy, but others believe that the present international laws are simply too vague and unrealistic to implement. This has also given a free hand to the regimes in the Middle East to design and craft their personal agendas and plans. “The non-clarity of international law is a matter of concern. There are few, if any, precedents that the UN international law commission or the International court of justice could be cited to establish some rules to arbitrate on water sharing that is if neighboring countries quarrelling over water resort to arbitration; but so far no country has volunteered to do so (Adel Darwish, (http://www.mideastnews.com/WaterWars.htm).”

The irony of the whole water scarcity situation in the Middle East is that while the regimes in the Middle East continue their assault on the weaker nations in the outrageous mannerism, the international community is almost helpless as no international laws exist that might allow them (the west) to interfere and set definite patterns or coarse of action for the Middle East regimes to follow and implement. “There was – and still there is – no provision in international law to stop them imposing their will on weaker or smaller neighbors, uprooting ethnic minorities by force or by ending their way of life and even having far reaching and lasting devastating effect on the environment, all because they carried out their ambitious water scheme away from world supervision without any proper studies while mankind helplessly looked on (Adel Darwish, (http://www.mideastnews.com/WaterWars.htm).”

Furthermore, numerous examples can be cited where such policies have been enacted that have considered only the national laws and traditions and thereby completely ignoring the region and neighboring partners. The gravity of this inwardness can be gauged from the fact that even countries with almost identical ideologies and common interests have showed aggression against each other when it comes down to the issue of water sharing. “There are many examples of governmental water schemes that took little notice of international laws, the effect on the environment and wildlife, the interests of neighboring nations or even the welfare of their own population. Water policies in Jordan and Levant have, for generations, been in the front line of the Middle East longest conflict. Turkey has an alarming attitude to neighboring Iraq and Syria, not to mention the effect of its water politics on its own Kurdish population (Adel Darwish, (http://www.mideastnews.com/WaterWars.htm).”

Presently, the World Bank is the only financier of water schemes and up till now, either no help or very little assistance has been asked from the World Bank. No international laws exist, in case when the assistance of the World Bank is not asked for. The reason why the Middle East regimes have been reluctant to go to World Bank for assistance is because they fear that the prime financier of the World Bank, United States of America, will not support their plans and designs of the use of water. “Since 1940s World Bank made a negotiated agreement between riparian states a condition to finance a water schemes. When a nation doesn’t need the World Bank to finance a water scheme, there is no provision in international law to stop it imposing its will on weaker neighbors, uprooting ethnic minorities by force and inflecting far reaching and lasting devastating effect on wildlife and the environment (Adel Darwish, (http://www.mideastnews.com/water004.html).”

It is worth noting here that the threat of future water wars in the Middle East augmented during the early 1990’s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since then, many possible scenarios of future water wars in the Middle East have been provided by various international institutions and organizations, as well as, intelligence agencies. These predictions are founded on the present day discrepancies and conflicts on water sharing. For instance the hostility between Syria and Turkey is well-known and future water war between the two neighbors is inevitable. “The likelihood scenario, according to a CIA report, that PKK fighters with Syrian logistic aid would blow the Attaturk dam, provoking retaliation against their bases in Northern Syria triggering a war involving Iraq. And as the whole Western Alliance would be involved by a war between Turkey and Syria, it is no surprise that American and European planners have been working on contingency plans for such eventuality (Adel Darwish, (http://www.mideastnews.com/water004.html).”

Furthermore, since, majority in the Middle East are Muslims, the ethnic minorities are deprived of water. This is true for not only those that are neighbors to such Muslim countries, but also true for the internal ethnic minorities. While international laws exist in the treatment of ethnic minorities, the Middle East regimes refuse to succumb to the international pressures and thus deprive the ethnic minorities of their basic human right — “water. “Even if we put the damage to the environment aside, undemocratic governments – and the Middle East is full of them – argue that their water schemes which have infringed the rights of ethnic minorities are internal matters. But again history proves that it is only a matter of time before the aggrieved ethnic minorities take up arms to face such injustice in a classical guerrilla war that on for years with even heavier price paid by the population, the wild life and the environment (Adel Darwish, (http://www.mideastnews.com/WaterWars.htm).”

Presently, the situation in the Middle East is relatively under control. This is because almost all Muslim countries see Israel as their common enemy and much of the resources are diverted to the destruction of Israel. However, as mentioned above, the growth rate in the Middle East is one of the highest in the region and the water supplies are not only limited but also stagnant. Therefore, one can assume that the unity amongst the Middle East states against Israel will pave the way for regional conflict, as soon as, the social unrest starts to creep within their own population as a result of water scarcity. “In the past Arab dictators stifled their own disputes and faced the Jewish state as a common enemy. Soon, that constraint is likely to disappear and all the long-suppressed enmities – like water sharing quarrels – will come into the open (Adel Darwish, (http://www.mideastnews.com/WaterWars.htm).”

Water scarcity will definitely be the deciding factors in future conflicts and the absence of clear and lucid international laws not only aggravate the present situation, but also reveal the true intentions of the imperial powers. As some scholars already believe that it is in the interest of the West that the regional wars take place and it would provide them with the opportunity to interfere and thus take control of the world oil supplies. “Water has already played a part in causing wars, altering policies and changing alliances. Many of the nations sharing the use of those rivers have in the past resorted to force over issues less serious than shortage of water, the source of life. Most alarming, and perhaps most telling, was an off-the-record comment by a leading politician about his country’s water need. ‘A time may well come,” he said, ‘we have to calculate whether a small swift war might be economically more rewarding than putting up with a drop in our water supplies (Adel Darwish, (http://www.mideastnews.com/water004.html).'”

Conclusion of this Section

From the above-mentioned facts it is clear that the absence of clear international laws have complicated the situation in the Middle East as it has allowed the autocratic regimes to dictate the flow of water, thereby depriving the weaker nations from sufficient water and thus raising the possibility of future water conflicts.

Population explosion

With the ever-increasing population and decrease in already limited supply, there is a possibility that the Middle East countries might indulge in future water wars. Over the last fifty years, the problem of water scarcity in the Middle East has gone from bad to worse. There is ample evidence to suggest that things will not be improving in the near future. In fact, on the contrary, all the facts and figures suggest that things are only going in one direction, that is, in the direction of future water wars (Table 1, 2 & 3). “The list of water-scarce countries in 1955 was seven including three Middle Eastern countries: Bahrain, Jordan and Kuwait. By 1990, 13 were added among them eight from the Middle East: Algeria, Israel/Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. UN studies anticipate adding another 10 countries by the year 2025 seven of them are from the Middle East: Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Libya, Morocco, Oman and Syria. This means that by the year 2025 some eighteen countries in this troublesome region will suffer from water shortages (Adel Darwish, (http://www.mideastnews.com/WaterWars.htm).”

The most volatile place in not only the Middle East but also the world is the Israeli Palestinian frontier. While the efforts and the focus of the whole world is towards peace building and reconciliation between the Arabs and the Israelis, the population growth rate and the limited water resources will perhaps not allow an atmosphere of peace and reconciliation (Table 1, 2 & 3). “Israel’s population is projected to grow from 4.7 millions in 1990 to about 8 million in 2025. By that time Palestinians in the west bank – because of their higher birth rate, are likely to reach just under seven millions- the two peoples are to share the same water resources which they both now say are not enough (Adel Darwish, (http://www.mideastnews.com/WaterWars.htm).”

Jordon too is in an absolute dilemma when it comes down to the water scarcity issue. The population of Jordon too is climbing at a steep pace and the water resources are drying up at a fast rate (Table 1, 2 & 3). “Jordan’s population more than doubled from 1.5 millions in 1955 to 4 millions in 1990 and is projected to double again before 2010. Their annual per capita water availability in 1990 was 327 cubic meters some 673 below the bottom line of crisis (Adel Darwish, (http://www.mideastnews.com/WaterWars.htm).”

The problems in Egypt and Syria and more or less the same, the economies are stagnant, while the population is growing at a rapid pace. Both countries have been unable to cope with the menace of Urbanization and have also been unable to implement their economic reforms (Table 1, 2 & 3). “Declining growth rates in Egypt are offset by population momentum, water problems, and over-urbanization. Syria has wasted a decade with half-hearted economic reform, and faces major population problems. Syria has not corrected its growth rate problems. Infrastructure issues will overtake water as a population-driven problem. Egypt remains a critical case, and may be little growth in real per capita income. Grew from 54 million in 1990 to 58 million in 1995. Will rise to 63 million in 2000, 67 million in 2005, and 73 million in 2010. Population growth seriously threatens Syria’s development: Grew from 12 million in 1990 to 14 million in 1995. Will rise to 17 million in 2000, 20 million in 2005, and 23 million in 2010 (Anthony H. Cordesman, 1998).”


From the above mentioned facts, it is clear that the population explosion throughout the Middle East coupled with the declining water resources will pose a major threat to the growth and development of the Middle East economies and there is a high probability that, in future, these countries will resort to violence and war over the division of water. “The Middle East is also a region where figures of water withdrawal as percentage of renewable water supplies are among the highest in the world, while the renewal rate is rather slow because of the arid nature of the land (Adel Darwish, (http://www.mideastnews.com/WaterWars.htm).”

Increase demand and Decrease supply

Arab states and other countries in the Middle East should work for a collective agreement on sharing water resources to prevent the outbreak of a major conflict that could be triggered by fear of thirst (Nadim Kawach, 2002).”

One of the reasons to find a mutually-profitably solution to the problem of water scarcity in the Middle East has been the fact that the starting place of most of the water resources are located outside the Middle East domain. As a result, difficulty persists over controlling the water resources and managing a regional water-sharing treaty, acceptable to all parties concerned “Unlike other forms of supply and demand imbalances, in the domain of water such imbalances often transcend market forces and result in regional political and strategic dilemmas. First, in the Middle East, most of the water resources originate upstream from countries outside the control of the users downstream. Second, in the absence of an appropriate political environment, regional cooperation for equitable distribution and use of water resources is lacking (Nimrod Raphaeli, 2003).”

The problem of water scarcity has grown sharply amid rising population and stagnant water supplies. The need of water for all countries in the Middle East countries has almost doubled in the last twenty years and this graph is expected to carry on along the same line. All countries in the Middle East will face the problem water shortages that will propel them to think of alternative solutions, one of these solutions will most definitely be, going to war in order to fulfill their requirements of water. “The total needs of the Arab countries for water in 2002 reached 189.7 billion cubic meters (bcm) which rose from 153 bcm in 1990. These needs were estimated to rise to 280.6 bcm in 2025. For example, the Egyptian requirements for water, for various uses – agriculture, industry, as well as potable water – were 70.5 bcm in 2000 but will rise to 103.2 bcm in 2025. Dr. Hamdi has determined that water surplus, the differential between supply and demand, was 103 bcm in 1990 but declined to 84.2 bcm in 2000. By 2025 the water surplus will turn into a water deficit of 2.25 bcm annually due to a growing population and a subsequently growing demand. Currently, water deficits are recorded in Iraq, Libya, Oman, Jordan, and the U.A.E. By 2025, Egypt will suffer a water deficit of 19.2 bcm, followed by Sudan (9.7 bcm), Saudi Arabia (1.6 bcm), and Jordan (1.15 bcm) (Nimrod Raphaeli, 2003).”

Furthermore, some of the most volatile and violence-oriented countries in the Middle East have Muslims in majority. It is worth noting here that the water resources being used by these Muslim countries originate from non-Arab lands. Experts assert that, in future, when water scarcity and the tolerance of the Arabs will reach its climax, this factor is bound to go against the possibility of peace and stability in the region. “Most rivers in Arab countries originate from non-Arab countries which, as a group, control 88% of water flowing into Arab lands. In Egypt, dependence on water originating from outside the country is 90%, but it is only 50% in Syria (Nimrod Raphaeli, 2003)”

In the Middle East, the most conflict-ridden place is the Jordon River Basin. The dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians have prolonged for almost six decades. While many believe that the underlying reason for this chaos and commotion has been conflicting ideologies of both sides, many scholars have highlighted the problem of water scarcity as one of the fundamental motives behind the conflict. “The population in the Jordan River basin, which includes Israel, Jordan, the West Bank/Gaza and southern Syria, has grown six fold since the late 1940s. This area needs 15 bcm annually for self-sufficiency but it currently has available only 3-5 bcm. To make up for the shortage, groundwater, the main source of water in many countries, is being extracted well beyond the renewal rate of the resource (Nimrod Raphaeli, 2003).”

The gap between the supply and demand in the Middle East is so large that experts have marked this region as one of the driest regions in the world. The per capita water consumption is almost six times lower than the average per capita consumption of the world. Since all the regimes in the Middle East have miserably failed to provide a solution to the water scarcity problem, the local population has resorted to finding their own solution to this menace. However, these solutions too are temporary and short-lived. “The Middle East region is by far the driest and most water scarce region in the world. Thus, the average per capita water availability in the region is about 1,200 cubic meters per year (world average is close to 7,000). The pressures on water are exacerbated by a rapidly growing population, fast urbanization, droughts, and desertification – not least important is the inefficient use of water for agriculture. In the words of the New York Times, ‘the [Saudi] kingdom’s gamble on agriculture has sucked precious aquifers dry.’ In San’a, the capital of Yemen, one of the most water poor countries, the number of boreholes randomly dug has reached 7,000. And this phenomenon of random digging of boreholes is not a uniquely Yemeni problem (Nimrod Raphaeli, 2003).”

Many experts have predicted that unless all the countries in the Middle East, which are confronting severe water problems, amicably work together to find a mutually-acceptable solution, the problem of water scarcity will grow manifold and will eventually, lead these countries to war. Some of the most pertinent challenges confronting the Middle East countries are: “1) limited water resources and decline in the water credit per capita; 2) rapid population growth; 3) increasing demand for food supplies; 4) increasing water supplies through recycling of sanitation water; 5) failure to fulfill international water agreements (reference is perhaps mainly to Turkey); 6) Israel’s ambitions to control water in the occupied area; 7) the need to implement the World Bank’s recommendation regarding water pricing (Nimrod Raphaeli, 2003).”

The desperation of the regimes in the Middle East to find a solution to the water scarcity problem can be gauged from the fact that these countries have started to import agriculture goods form foreign countries so that they can save the water supplies for domestic purposes. One of the reasons for this desperation can be the anxiety of the local population. Nonetheless, experts assert that this tactic of importing subsidized agriculture goods will not work over a longer period of time, unless the root causes of the water scarcity problem is not confronted. “The water deficit is resolved by the existence of illusory water in the international grain markets. He maintains that the production of one ton of wheat requires 1,000 tons of water. By importing wheat and other grains, often heavily subsidized by the producing countries, the importing Middle Eastern countries create the illusion of water sufficiency. The deteriorating supply/demand ratio, if left unresolved, could lead to conflicts and wars, but the growing water deficit could also provide an impetus for rational, long-term strategic policies to mitigate potential conflicts (Nimrod Raphaeli, 2003).”

We live in a dynamic world where new technology becomes obsolete in a matter of weeks. Same can be asserted about the growth and development of agro-technology sector. Many new methods have been designed and many new appliances have been invented, which greatly assist the farmers in better managing their water resources. However, majority of the regimes in the Middle East have been reluctant to introduce these methods and appliances to assist their farmers. At the same time, those regimes that have applied these methods and appliances have reaped manifold profits. “Water conservation is the most reliable and least expensive way to stretch water resources. An example is the recent campaign by the Syrian government to reduce the use of water in agriculture. In Syria, as in most countries in the region, agriculture uses 80-90% of water resources. Syrian experts have estimated that, in the case of wheat, if a sprinklers system is introduced, the yield will increase by 23% while water use will be reduced by 43% or the equivalent of 6.1 bcm annually. Likewise, using sprinklers on 250 hectares of cotton will increase the yield by 19% and reduce water use by 27%. In the case of Israel, the adoption of low volume irrigation systems (e.g., drip, micro-sprinklers) and automation has increased the average efficiency to 90% as compared to 64% for furrow irrigation. As a result, the average requirement of water per unit of land area has decreased from 8,700 cum/ha (cubic meters/hectares) in 1975 to the current application rate of 500 cum/ha. At the same time agricultural output has increased twelve fold, while total water consumption by the sector has remained almost constant (Nimrod Raphaeli, 2003).”

Since, the water resources in the Middle East are stagnant and limited; experts have asserted that these countries should try to better manage the water supply, instead of looking for newer water resources. This shift of focus might decrease the possibility of future water conflicts. However, lack of institutional strength and reluctance shown by the Middle East regimes have hindered any progress that could have been made on this front. “Supply-side options such as the groundwater recharge and the use of brackish groundwater and fossil groundwater could provide some direly needed additional water, but that their potential is limited in terms of quantity, quality, location, and sustainability of the resources. There is thus a need to shift from supply to demand management. This requires new policies and skills. However a lack of data, the weakness of monitoring networks, the inappropriateness of some legal and regulatory frameworks, the difficulty of enforcing regulations, and the fragmentation of the institutional framework impose clear limits on what can be achieved in terms of groundwater management (Nimrod Raphaeli, 2003).”

Furthermore, while the Arab population amounts to 7% of the entire world, the per capita consumption is approximately 0.5%. This fact clearly illustrates the gravity of the present problem of water scarcity and the need to augment not only the water supplies but also better manage the existing ones. Furthermore, sensible and cautious consumption is also an important, yet overlooked factor. “A severe water crisis has already started looming in the Arab world which is now classified as the worst region in terms of per capita share of sweet water, and its heavy reliance on foreign water sources mainly from Ethiopia and Turkey. Although Arabs account for more than seven per cent of the world’s population, their share of the global recoverable water resources does not exceed 0.5 per cent (Nadim Kawach, 2002).”

Since the situation is going from bad to worse, high possibilities exists that the present crisis of the large gap between the supply and demand of water may augment to uncontrollable proportions and provoke the countries to go to war. “In the absence of a strategy to develop water reserves, the per capita share of sweet water in the Arab region plummeted from 3,126 cubic meters in 1950 to only 981 cubic meters in 2000, the lowest in the world. ‘The water crisis in the Arab world has assumed serious economic, political and legal proportions and it could snowball into a major confrontation,’ (Nadim Kawach, 2002).”

If the population growth rate is not controlled by the regimes in the Middle East and policies that initiate awareness amongst the masses are not launched, with immediate effect, then, the present gap of water supply and demand will increase drastically and undoubtedly lead these countries to war. “The majority of their population is living under what it called the ‘water poverty line’. Citing official estimates it said the traditional available Arab water resources do not exceed 264 million cubic meters while consumption is projected to grow to around 499 million cubic meters in 2025 according to conservative forecasts and nearly 586 million cubic meters if the Arab population growth continues at its present rapid rate (Nadim Kawach, 2002).”

Conclusion of this Section

From the above mentioned facts, it is clear that the Middle East countries are in a deep crisis of water scarcity. The present gap between the supply and the demand of water throughout the Middle East is by far the largest in the region. The present situation is going from bad to worse because neither new resources of water are being discovered nor the use of present supplies is being professionally managed. Therefore, a possibility exists that the countries in the Middle East region will avert to water wars in the near future.


Since, the Middle East has been rich in mineral resources, not only the water resources but also the environment is severely polluted. While, the rest of the world, particularly the west, has been taking stern actions to preserve the environment, there had been little effort from the governments in this region. However, in recent years, many steps have been taken to ensure that not only the environment but also the limited water resources are protected in the best way possible. “Environmentalism is something new to the Middle East. Until the 1990s, oil wealth was so great that governments, planners and ordinary citizens hardly gave a thought to the mountains of trash, toxic chemicals and air pollutants that wealth engendered (Josh Martin, 1999).” However, “The Middle East is emerging as a high growth market for a wide range of environmental control equipment, systems and consulting services. These include water purification and treatment systems, hazardous materials and solid waste disposal operations, and sewage systems and treatment plants. So far, the process has been nurtured almost exclusively by governments and a few large oil companies. Public awareness of and demand for environmental protection is expected to create even higher growth in the future (Josh Martin, 1999).”

Many new laws are being crafted to protect not only the environment but also the water resources. These laws will help protect the limited water reserves and thereby provide people with safe and clean water for domestic and agricultural usage. A high possibility exists that this may very well have a certain amount of influence on the economy. “New environmental protection legislation is now in place or being developed in virtually every Gulf Cooperation Council member country, as well as in North Africa (Josh Martin, 1999).”

Experts have asserted that unity, cooperation, coordination and collaboration are fundamental, if the Middle East countries have to make huge strides in maintaining a clean and healthy environment. Some countries have made efforts in this direction, but others have to follow up and take quick action in this regard, as water pollution cannot be taken for granted. “Regional cooperation will be the key to sustaining improved environmental standards. For example, Egypt has adopted many tougher industrial anti-pollution standards in its efforts to move closer to its Mediterranean and European neighbors, for whom such standards are mandatory. In the Gulf, the Gulf Cooperation Council has been adopting stricter marine pollution standards to clamp down on sanctions-busting Iraqi tankers whose oil spills have ruined local fisheries and beaches, and harmed vital desalinization plants (Josh Martin, 1999).”

Experts assert that the process of legislation and public awareness are encouraging steps, but these positive steps have to be backed by effective and immediate implementation. “Putting laws in place, and importing environmental technologies, are the beginning of a long-term process. Effective enforcement and application is still lagging. As one analyst pointed out: ‘The legal system may be in place, but you need to get people trained and ready to enforce the regulatory system,’ (Josh Martin, 1999).”

Conclusion of this Section

From the above mentioned facts, one can assume that the Middle East countries have taken certain measures to maintain water and environment pollution caused by oil refineries and other highly pollution-oriented industries. But these measures are and will be ineffective, unless they are backed by strict implementation of the laws and public awareness campaigns; failure of which will add to the possibility of future water wars.

Water exploitation methods

The present dilemma of water scarcity has brought with it newer ways of water exploitation. However, millions of people in the Middle East still resort to the old method of pumping water from the ground. This method of water exploitation has given relief to a lot of people and will continue to do so for many years to follow, until newer sources of water are not discovered or, unless the present ones are not better utilized. Of late, the method of pumping water from the ground has attracted a lot of criticism. “If pumping is not brought into balance with recharging, the underground supply eventually becomes too expensive to keep tapping, too salty to use as it is pulled up from greater depths, or simply too depleted to serve as a supply. Overuse of groundwater is now ubiquitous in parts of China, India, Mexico, Thailand, the western U.S., North Africa, and the Middle East (Sandra Postel, 1993).”

It is worth noting here that experts do not condemn the water pumping from the underground, but rather, their criticism is about the methods deployed and the amount of water pumped from the ground. “Some of the most troubling cases of unsustainable groundwater use involve “fossil” aquifers, underground reservoirs that hold water hundreds or thousands of years old and receive little replenishment from rainfall. Like oil reserves, these aquifers essentially are nonrenewable – pumping water from them depletes the supply in the same way that extractions from an oil well do. Farms and cities that depend on this water eventually will face the dilemma of what to do when the well runs dry (Sandra Postel, 1993).”

Some of the new methods of water exploitation have brought with it, pollution, unbalanced water reserves and many other hazards that are having a severe impact on the population, both Urban and Rural. Experts assert that while almost all the biological diversities are under severe threat, the marine life is undoubtedly the most affected. This is mainly because of some of the new water exploitation methods that are being employed not only in the Middle East but also in many other parts of the world. “Shrinking groundwater reserves, falling water tables, and projected demands that far exceed available supplies are clear signals of water stress. Perhaps the most worrying sign of trouble comes from examining the health of aquatic environments. The damming, diverting, and polluting of water-courses with little regard for the environmental services they provide and the species they support has wreaked havoc on the planet’s wetlands, deltas, lakes, and riverine habitats. Of all the threatened forms of biological diversity on Earth, aquatic life may be the most in jeopardy (Sandra Postel, 1993).”

While the water exploitation methods have greatly assisted the human development, they have caused immense damage to the marine life. Experts assert that newer methods will have to be developed and adapted in a manner that is advantageous to the marine life and also human growth and development. “A distressing conflict has emerged over two of water’s roles – as a commodity serving the economic aims of greater agricultural productivity, industrial expansion, and urban growth, and as a key life support for all species and natural communities. Mounting scarcity has thrown this friction into sharp relief. More water devoted to human needs means less for sustenance of ecosystems – and, in many areas, nature is losing out fast (Sandra Postel, 1993).”

Technology has brought with it several newer methods of water exploitation, some of which have greatly assisted water productivity in agriculture. One of the leading countries in this sphere has been the State of Israel. “Israel has brought about what widely is perceived as an agricultural miracle over the last three decades. Although it remains to be seen whether that nation’s success in making the desert bloom will prove sustainable, Israel has developed technologies, methods, and scientific capabilities in irrigation that could prove invaluable to much of the world as the era of water constraints unfolds (Sandra Postel, 1993).”

The technology developed by Israel needs to be adapted by other developing countries in the world, in general, and by the Middle East, in particular. They have to turn away from their differences and cooperate, coordinate and collaborate with each other so that effective measures can be taken to manage the limited water resources from the demand-side. “Among the most heralded of its accomplishments is the development of drip irrigation, whereby water is delivered directly to crops’ roots through a network of porous or perforated piping installed on or below the soil surface. This keeps evaporation and seepage losses extremely low. Because water is applied frequently at low doses, optimal moisture conditions are maintained for the crop, boosting yields, and salt does not accumulate in the root zone. Modern Israeli farms often have highly automated drip systems, with computers and monitors sensing when and how much water to apply and determining the precise amount of nutrients to add. Israeli farmers liken their irrigation practices to ‘feeding the plant with a teaspoon’ (Sandra Postel, 1993).”

These new water exploitation methods will enhance the water productivity and thereby allow the Middle East countries with some respite regarding their water scarcity problem. However, it should be noted here that these technologies are worthless, unless these technologies are backed by effective use of water canal systems and other agricultural infrastructures. “New technologies that build efficiency into their designs – such as surge, LEPA, and drip irrigation – can help make crop production less demanding of the world’s water supply. Equally important is raising the efficiency of the extensive surface canal systems that dominate the world’s irrigated lands. Much land slated for irrigation, and often counted as receiving it, gets insufficient water or none at all because irrigation works are poorly maintained and operated (Sandra Postel, 1993).”

Conclusion of this section

From the above mentioned facts it is clear that some of the newer water exploitation methods have added to the problems of water management. This is because they add another dimension to the already existing water pollution and contamination, while other methods of water exploitation have greatly assisted farmers in enhancing agriculture productivity. Therefore, regimes in the Middle East have to be careful about the method and approach they use to extract water from the existing water resources as it will be unwise to further escalate the problem of water scarcity as by doing so, they will only enhance the possibility of future water conflicts.

Economic Growth in the Middle East

The drastic growth of population throughout the Middle East, coupled with influence of globalization, has given rise to poverty and unemployment. Experts assert that the Middle East economies are some of the slowest growing economies in the region. One reason frequently cited by the west in the growing illiteracy throughout the region (Table 4). It is worth noting that this region, which is already far behind other regions in America, Europe and central, South and South East Asia, will soon become the most backward and the most violent region in the world, unless the regimes in this region effectively invest in human resource development. “Like other developing countries, Middle Eastern economies are facing a rapidly changing external environment. In their case, the challenges arising from the process of globalization and integration of the world economy are compounded by changes in the regional context. The manner in which Middle Eastern economies react to these challenges will be a critical determinant of their process of economic growth and development -including, most importantly, their ability to raise living standards and provide employment to a growing number of entrants into the labor force (Mohamed a. Ei-Erian, 1996).”

If experts had any doubt whatsoever on the economic problem due to the severe water scarcity dilemma prevailing in the region, then the war in Iraq would have definitely shed all those doubts. The countries in the Middle East already have a huge package of economic and social problems, mainly due to the water scarcity problem, and the war in Iraq has only complicated the process even further. “The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region faces a period of uncertainty, with near-term growth prospects contingent upon whether the region is engulfed in new military actions. Business confidence could be severely undermined by the growing risk of ‘Gulf War II’, thereby disrupting trade and investment flows and leading to sharp fluctuations in oil prices. The World Bank warns: ‘The region will continue to bear the high costs of conflict and political uncertainty,’ and ‘This situation stifles private investment as well as reform efforts, with negative consequences on long-term growth’ (Moin a Siddiqi, 2003).”

The sources of revenue have been very limited for the Middle East countries and the war in Iraq has further damaged those limited sources of income. The need of the hour was an effective system, followed up by international laws, which would have allowed the Middle East economies to move towards reconciliation and perhaps a regional water-sharing treaty. However, unfortunately the latest events have not turned out to be in favor of these underdeveloped economies. “MENA is heavily reliant on a narrow range of revenue sources, particularly crude oil / natural gas, private remittances and tourism. The balance of payments current account and fiscal balances broadly follow trends in world oil markets. This unhealthy reliance increases the potential for vulnerability to external shocks (Moin a Siddiqi, 2003).”

Many experts assert that the region is still under turmoil and has been unable to overcome the shock of September 11, 2001. This is not strange, in the least bit, as majority of the attackers and hijackers belonged to Middle East region. Therefore, effective measures have to be taken to bring back the confidence of the international investors so that the glooming lookout of the present economy can be improved. “The political and economic fallout of the 11 September terrorist attacks is still being felt across the region. Tourism business remains depressed because of regional security concerns and foreign direct investment (FDI) outside hydrocarbons projects has slowed. Egypt suffered large falls in FDI, as bearish global conditions dampened the prospects for privatization-related FDI, particularly in the aviation and telecommunications sectors (Moin a Siddiqi, 2003).”

Diversification is the key in the present globalized world. Countries have to resort to diversity in not only their product line but also the quality of the products in order to cater to wide-ranging market segments. Product diversity is also essential for the present phenomenon of trade liberalization, however, the Middle East economies have done very little to add diversity to their product line and thus have been ill prepared for the future. “The region, with the exception of some countries, is not in a position to look to its external markets as a means to stimulate economic growth and reduce internal and external financial imbalances. Most countries’ trade regimes are not diversified enough to exploit significantly the opportunities emanating from the multilateral trade liberalization process-this when the outlook for non-oil export prices is relatively favorable. At the same time, several countries in the region are likely to experience an erosion in their preferential access to certain markets. Finally, most countries in the region are not as yet in a position to exploit the opportunities arising from the process of capital-market globalization and integration (Mohamed a. Ei-Erian, 1996).”

Macroeconomics has become an important aspect of today’s fast growing economies. It is a good indicator to judge the efficiency and progress of the government. Macroeconomic policies being pursued in the Middle East have strengthened their macroeconomic indicators. The statistics and figures shown by the government have impressed many experts. “Most countries are pursuing sound macroeconomic policies. The ‘boom-bust’ cycle of the 1980s and early 1990s, associated with steep increases and decreases in public expenditures as oil revenues rose and fell, has been much more subdued. Firmer crude prices, averaging $25.8 a barrel over 2000-02, have not resulted in booming government spending across the oil-rich Gulf. The authorities have utilized ‘oil windfalls’ prudently to redeem national debt, accumulate external (official) assets and increase investment on infrastructure and other fixed capital outlays (Moin a Siddiqi, 2003).” Macroeconomic policies being pursued in the region may have strengthened their macroeconomic indicators, but it is worth noting that macroeconomic indicators do not show the true color of the economy. The trickles down effect of these macroeconomic policies have yet to be seen.

Many experts assert that the growth and development in the economy through macroeconomics is only short-lived, unless the policies have a direct influence on the microeconomics of the country. Putting it simply, the economic growth acquired through policies that strengthen the macroeconomic indicators is a bubble and will soon blow up, unless the trickle down effect of these policies are not seen. This exactly turned to be the case for the Middle East economies. “After exceptionally robust growth in 2000 and 2001, MENA fell into a sluggish growth cycle during last year, amid lower oil production and exports, resulting from the OPEC cartel’s supply-restraints and rising geopolitical instabilities. According to the World Bank, real GDP growth among oil-exporters averaged 2.4%, whilst diversified exporters — namely Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan — faced harsh external conditions, with growth declining to 2.2%, down from 4.3% in 2001. The sagging Euro-zone economy has reduced export demand and contributed to a downturn in regional tourism. Internal factors such as unfavorable weather conditions and stringent monetary/fiscal policies, coupled with an unstable exchange rate regime in some MENA countries, have also depressed economic activity. (Moin a Siddiqi, 2003).”

The main source of revenue for majority of the Middle East economies, which are highly focused on its natural resources, is oil. Future assumptions about the Middle East economies have to be based on the demand and supply of oil. “Regional prospects should improve during 2003, assuming the global economy stages a sustainable recovery, oil prices remain within OPEC’s preferred target of $24-$25 and the general security environment normalizes. The World Bank expects MENA to expand by 3.7%, while the IMF’s GDP growth projection is 4.6%. The energy-exporters, led by Saudi Arabia and Iran, could achieve 4.9% annual growth, underpinned by higher oil production and rising capital spending.” The dependence of the Middle East economies on oil, as a source of foreign trade has been considered by many experts as a sign of weakness. The Middle East countries have to open up and resort to diversity if they wish to stay competitive in the future world markets.

While the economies of the Middle East are stagnant and their main source of foreign exchange and trade has been oil, the financial policies are also connected to external factors. This also exposes the weakness of the Middle East economies, particularly those in the Gulf region. “The monetary policies of the GCC states are unofficially linked to U.S. interest rates. Presently, U.S. short-term rates (1.25%) are at 41-year low. Therefore, cheaper borrowing costs in the Gulf should fuel consumer spending and business investment. However, if the $10 trillion U.S. economy — the engine of global trade — plunges into ‘double-dip’ recession and geopolitical conditions in MENA continue to deteriorate, economic growth in most countries will drop far short of the IMF’s current expectations (Moin a Siddiqi, 2003).”

But higher levels of trade and inward investment depend on permanent regional peace. Such prospects for change remain bleak as Israel’s right-wing government supported by the U.S. Bush administration, appears intent on confrontation rather than reconciliation. The UN report noted: “Israel’s occupation of Arab lands is one of the most pervasive obstacles to security and progress. It casts a pall across the political and economic life of the region, directing public investment into military spending and providing a cause and an excuse for retarding political development (Moin a Siddiqi, 2003).”

Conclusion of this Section

From the above mentioned facts it is clear that the Middle East economies are not diversified enough to compete at the global level. Their main source of income has been oil. Experts assert that the problem of water scarcity, throughout the region, implies that the growth and development in agriculture, which is considered as a major employment source throughout the world, is still a distant dream. Furthermore, the steep rise in the population of this region has added to the problem of unemployment, poverty and illiteracy. These social menaces will escalate regional tension which will surely result in an all out war over the water resources.

Border conflicts

The problem of water scarcity in the Middle East has been the underlying reason of majority of the border conflicts. Some of these conflicts date back to the start of the nineteenth century. While technology has changed the way we live, the way we think and our attitude and approach, very little progress has been made to tackle the water problems in the Middle East. In fact, some scholars argue that this disregard and inattention is deliberate because the present global powers have an innate desire to acquire control of the global oil supply lying in the Middle East and by allowing the Middle East states to indulge in regional warfare, they will have a legal motive to seemingly intervene to stop the conflict, however, at the same time, gain access to the vast oil reserves. “Water resources had been among the crucial issues of dispute. The unilateral designs by the Zionist Organization for Palestine’s water resources preceded the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. In fact, the early systematic work for the utilization of the Jordan River waters and those of the Litani waters by the Zionists can be traced back to the end of the nineteenth century in the works of Abraham Bourcart, an emissary of the Zionist Organization to Palestine in 1898-9, and in the works of Pinhas Rutenburg in 1918-19, the works of Simcha Blass in 1935-6 and in the works of Walter Clay Lowdermilk in 1942-4, detailed in 1947 by Hays and Savage, and the works of others (Munther J. Hardening, 2002).”

When the State of Israel had been re-created in 1948, majority of the neighboring states, which had Muslim majority, opposed its creation and thus an ideological conflict started between the Zionist State and the Muslim countries in the Middle East. This conflict further arose when the West, particularly the Americans, inclined towards the newly re-born Israeli State. While the conflict had been ideological, the problem of water scarcity soon became a part of the problem, which caused further difficulties for those who desired peace and stability in the region. “The Arab conflict with Israel after its proclamation in 1948 was rooted in their rejection in principle of the establishment of a state for Jewish immigrants on Arab Palestinian soil. Several hundred thousands of them were turned into refugees living in the Arab territories surrounding Israel. The conflict was thus demographic and territorial in nature and water became part of the geography of the conflict. A detailed account of the water conflict and the skirmishes that took place because of it can be found in the references cited under note 3 above (Munther J. Hardening, 2002).”

The problem of water scarcity is not limited to Israel and its neighboring countries, however, this region can be considered to be the most difficult and chaotic of all other regions in the large Middle East. In this specific region, several wars have been fought over the issue of water but the solution to this problem has not manifested. The reluctance demonstrated by both the sides is also very obvious and it showcases the extremism and radicalism of the people inhibiting in this region. “Israel’s occasional military incursions in South Lebanon in the 1970s, prompted by border attacks by the PLO across Israel’s borders with Lebanon, and its limited invasion of it in 1978, prompted some analysts to predict that water was behind the Israeli assaults. (15) the more inclusive invasion of South Lebanon intensified and developed into an all-out assault on Lebanon in 1982. Israeli troops advanced as far north as the Lebanese capital, Beirut. However, Israeli troops stationed in southern Lebanon took advantage of their location and prevented any Lebanese use of the Wazzani springs (30 mcm per year) or the Hasbani (125 mcm per year). Israel finally unilaterally withdrew from South Lebanon under pressure of armed resistance by Lebanese militias (notably Hizbullah), but no sign of Israeli diversion of the Litani was detected (Munther J. Hardening, 2002).”

One of the problems of water scarcity, as mentioned above, has been the conflicting plans designed by countries without considering the needs of their neighbors. The governments that craft these plans are then forced to implement them, by hook or by crook, by their own people, who are in desperate need of water for not only domestic use but also agricultural and industrial purposes. One such incident is the Israeli-Palestinian water dispute; “Perhaps the more difficult complication was the one between Israel and the Palestinians. On the one hand, the Palestinian territories have an equitable share in the waters of the Jordan and its tributaries as once defined in the share of the Hashemite Kingdom and, on the other, there are groundwater aquifers underlying Israeli and Palestinian territories that have to be shared between the two riparian parties. Complications arose because Israel had been dependent on these waters for years (Munther J. Hardening, 2002).” The dependence of Israelis and Palestinians exemplifies both facts of limited water resources and individual water plans.

Another factor behind the significant border disputes over the issue of water has been occupation of the land through illegal means and then utilizing the water resources of that land. However, these methods had been short-lived as the international community, which otherwise performs its services as a bystander, interferes to uphold the international law. A case in point can be the Israeli-Syrian border dispute: “Israel’s occupation of the DMZs and the Golan Heights on the Syrian front denied Syria access to Banyas water and to Lake Tiberias. The complication was centered around the lake because of Israel’s closure in 1964 of the outlet of the Jordan River from that lake, thus transforming it into a huge water reservoir (some 64 [km.sup.2] in surface area). The closure was achieved by the Dagania Gates, which allowed the raising of the high- water level of the lake by about 4 m. This rise in water level increased the surface area of the lake, as it caused the waterline to expand outwards. On its northeastern shore, the international borders with Syria were only 10 m away from the natural waterline before raising the level. The resulting expansion in the lake surface caused Syrian territory on the northeast of the lake to be submerged. An apparent water issue therefore became a serious border issue between Israel and Syria to be settled through the bilateral negotiations along with other thorny issues such as the withdrawal to the 4 June 1967 lines, demolition of the Israeli settlements on the Golan, and full peace with Israel (Munther J. Hardening, 2002).”

Conclusion of this Section

From the above mentioned facts, it is clear that the significant border disputes confronting the Middle East countries have had a negative impact on the life styles of the people of this region, as well as, had an unconstructive impact on the possibility of acquiring peace and stability in the region. The probability of acquiring a water sharing accord, acceptable to all the parties concerned, is extremely low as the most important factor in reaching regional or international agreements and accords is trust, which lacks amongst the hostile neighbors.

The domestic situation and regional conflicts

The future of this region is reliant on its present and the present outlook of the entire region is certainly not bright by any standards. Many experts assert that the future will be a mirror of the past; however, others argue that the future will be more violent and destructive than the past. “In the past, struggles over territory, ideology, colonialism, nationalism, religion, and oil have defined the region. While it is clear that many of those sources of conflict remain salient today, future war in the Middle East and North Africa also will be increasingly influenced by economic and demographic trends that do not bode well for the region (Jason J. Morrissette and Douglas a. Borer, 2004).”

The population factor too will have its toll on the future border disputes in the region as it has in the past. In order to enhance the life style of the ever-increasing population, the Middle East economies will have to be diversified. Furthermore, the influence of capitalism will have to be lessened and the limited resources, which are currently being used by the powerful and the rich elite, will have to be shared amongst the lager segment of the society, which at the moment is working extremely hard to make both ends meet. “In most of these countries, these precious renewable resources are controlled by small segments of the domestic political elite, leaving less and less to the majority of the population. As a result, if present population and economic trends continue, we project that many future conflicts throughout the region will be directly linked to what academic researchers term ‘environmental scarcity’ –the scarcity of renewable resources such as arable land, forests, and fresh water (Jason J. Morrissette and Douglas a. Borer, 2004).”

The present regimes in the Middle East have been avid learners of history. However, their lessons have been limited to the unconstructive aspects of history. “On numerous occasions, history has shown that governments whose people are suffering can remain in power for long periods of time by pointing to external sources for the people’s hardship.” While this policy has strengthened their domestic hold, it has severely hurt any prospects of peace as their neighbors and other regional partners are frequently considered as the source of present misery and suffering. Majority of the border disputes in the region have this propaganda as their underlying motive (Jason J. Morrissette and Douglas a. Borer, 2004).

Many governments have resorted to finding water alternatives, at the same time as blaming their regional countries and neighbors for the problem of water scarcity. This is because they realize that to be the only resort to the tactic of “blame,” they risk social unrest, which may ultimately turn into internal insurgency. However, it is clear that these regimes in the Middle East have to do a lot more than simply putting the blame on others because the population is growing at a rapid pace and the water resources are decreasing. “Regarding political legitimacy, perception is politically more important than any standard of objective truth. When faced with a crisis of legitimacy derived from environmental resource scarcity, any political regime essentially has a choice of two options in dealing with the situation. The regime may choose temporarily not to respond to looming challenges to its authority because water-induced stress may in fact pass when sufficient heavy rainfall occurs. However, most regimes in the Middle East and North Africa have sought more proactive ways to ensure their survival. Indeed, a people might forgive its government for one drought, but if governmental action is not taken, a subsequent drought-induced crisis of legitimacy could result in significant social upheaval by an unforgiving public (Jason J. Morrissette and Douglas a. Borer, 2004).”

To argue in favor of the Middle East regimes deploying the tactic of blaming others for their water problems, one can assert that this policy has resulted in minor border disputes and that any major conflict, where the loss of human life is of striking proportions, have been avoided. Furthermore, they have also not only avoided any loss of political control over their local population, but also averted any possible rebellions. While many scholars and those in the academia do not favor the present regimes (one can hardly blame them), it is important to note that radicalism and fundamentalism is wide spread throughout the Middle East and North African region. If these regimes had been dethroned, it is highly likely that this defeat would have come from the support of the radical extremists. “Increasing supply in one state often creates environmental scarcity problems in another. If Turkey builds dams, Iraq and Syria are vulnerable: if Ethiopia or the Sudan builds dams, Egypt feels threatened. Thus far, interstate water problems leading to war have been avoided due to the economic interplay between oil wealth and the importation of ‘virtual water,’ which will be discussed at greater length below (Jason J. Morrissette and Douglas a. Borer, 2004).”

An important angle that has been often over looked, when discussing the border disputes in the Middle East and North African region, has been the influence of the imperial powers of the west. Many scholars have asserted that it is in the interest of America that the oil-rich Middle East countries depend on the west for their agricultural, health, education and other essentials of every day life. The border disputes and conflicts throughout the region take place because it allows America and others in the west to cash in through the sales military equipment and providing intelligence services. “Oil-exporting states are dependent on the influx of dollars, euros, and yen to purchase goods, services, and commodities that they lack. Thus, oil-producing countries in the Middle East and North Africa, few of whom have managed to successful diversify their economies beyond the petroleum sector; exist in an interdependent world economy. The world depends on their oil, and they depend on the world’s goods and services — including that most valuable life-sustaining resource, water (Jason J. Morrissette and Douglas a. Borer, 2004).”

Conclusion of this Section

From the above mentioned facts, it is clear that the present state of regional conflicts is due to the domestic situation of individual countries and the incapability of their governments to properly govern and manage the problem of water scarcity situation. It is worth noting here that while the governments keep on raising their concerns about their water rights, publicly, very little is being done to actually find a solution to the present dilemma through regional cooperation and collaboration. If the present state of affairs continues for a longer period of time, high possibility of future water wars will not be a distant reality.

Assessment of Expected Variables

The present international water laws are inadequate, undeveloped and do not seem to include the solution to the problem being faced by the developing world. While a number of legal principals have been maintained, there does not exist any legal compulsion for nations on the subject of sharing water resources. However, increased pressure from the developing world might turn the tide and an improvement in the present international laws may be seen. Such a development would of course minimize the possibility of a water war as it would force the Middle East countries to implement the international water law. However, international water laws are made in the developed world. Therefore the needs and requirements of the developed world are kept at the forefront. Since interest of western countries lies in controlling vast oil reserves of Middle East, possibility of impartial international laws is highly unlikely.

One might see another progressive development, regional water-sharing accord, which would minimize the possibility of a water war in the Middle East. However, such a development can not be considered a long-term solution to the water scarcity problem because the quickly increasing population will increase the demand for water, while stagnant water supply-sources will eventually lessen the existing share of water. Therefore, regional agreements too will only be able to provide a short-term solution to the water scarcity problem.

So far the entire region has been unyielding to their water needs. They have demonstrated aggression to those who have threatened their national interest. This has decreased the level of trust and augmented despair, misery and hopelessness. The present state of affairs cannot carry on for long and experts believe that these countries will go to a water war. However, in the future, the Middle East and African countries may show some flexibility in their stance in order to achieve successful negotiation and agreements on sharing international rivers. This may well minimize the possibility of a water war, but only for a short period of time. Water is a symbol of human life and no society consisting of human beings can think of surviving without water. Present per capita consumption of water throughout the Middle East is already far below than the rest of the world. Future water war will be an inevitable event, unless a comprehensive plan for water management is not designed and implemented with immediate effect, the likelihood of which is minimal.

Role played by the political leadership throughout the region has been very negative and discouraging, particularly, in the context of water scarcity problem. Their attitude of not accepting responsibility for the present dilemma and blaming their regional neighbors for their water scarcity problem has not helped things at all, if one is looking to find a mutually acceptable solution to the present crisis. However, the future might bring with it a change in the mannerism of the political leadership and they may start taking active interest in not only the consequences of their actions and inactions but also the possibility of finding better alternatives to the present problem of water scarcity. Such a paradigm change will most definitely alter the course of conflict and bring harmony, peace and stability in the region. However, assessing the present state of affairs and the options available to the present leadership, such a possibility seems unlikely.

It is frequently argued that future wars will be about controlling water resources and not oil. These future water wars have been forecasted to occur over the distribution and allocation of international and regional river systems. Lately, the world has stood by more than a few inter-regional river-distribution conflicts; however, nearly all of these conflicts have not traversed the dangerous and important edge of becoming aggressive. To a certain extent, majority of these river conflicts have been tackled through two-sided joint provisions. This development, however, cannot be considered as a long-term solution because, unlike other regions of the world, the water resources of this region are stagnant and the possibility of a water war in the future is highly likely.


Traditionally, water has been an important factor in crafting the geopolitical borders throughout the Middle East and the North African region. A small number of scholars recognize that the geopolitical boundaries on contemporary maps of the Middle East region have been, significantly, the outcome of a never-ending spectacle of wars and conflicts related to water scarcity, short-lived occupations, armistices and enforced peace policies. Present day borders in the Middle East and North Africa have been, for the most part, unnatural boundaries enforced inside the preceding 75 years by far-flung overseas authorities.

The importance and significance of water carry on obstructing regional collaboration, cooperation, coordination and contracts. To all intents and purposes, the limited water resources throughout the Middle East have been captured and occupied by the use of power and military take over. For that reason, the relationship connecting limited water sources, regional disputes, contending religious ideologies, patriotic and chauvinistic programs and fundamental human requirements cannot be ignored. Unless and until, this multifaceted and difficult relationship is taken into account all through future programs, water scarcity concerns will lead the ever-increasing population of the Middle East into an all out war.

Almost all preceding efforts to get to the bottom of the water disputes have, predominantly, been miserably unsuccessful. Almost all preceding solutions had been very regularly founded on political aims and goals, that is, protecting the surfacing of the State of Israel, as well as, guaranteeing sufficient water resources for its expected growth and development. The requirement for a more acceptable and reasonable proposal is beyond a shadow of a doubt. Such a strategy has got to reasonably represent the requirements of the region’s neighboring countries. This is because the problem of water scarcity being experienced throughout the Middle East has a high probability of growing into a full fledged war in the not so distant future.

Most pertinent factors responsible for the escalation of water scarcity crisis into a future water war are the quickly increasing population of the region, which is one of the highest is the world; stagnation of economic growth and development; political disintegration; as well as pathetic water management policies. The insufficiency and comparative uselessness of international water laws have made the present situation more complex and multi-faced.

Limited water resources and mistrust amongst the neighbors are one of the leading reasons underlying the failure of the Middle East regimes to enter into any kind of water sharing accord, which experts believe is the only supply-based solution to the present water scarcity and the only path through which the possibility of future water wars can be decreased. Furthermore, the Middle East region takes up a huge space on the map of the planet. This region has been blessed with cultural and ethnic diversity. However, this blessing has turned into a formula for disaster as the people of this region are determined to wipe out each other from the surface of this planet. This manifestation adds to the possibility of the disruption of future water wars.

Radicalism and extremism seen throughout the region is also not a very healthy sign for peace. Adding to the above mentioned complexities are the radical and extremist ideologies being deliberately promoted to trigger hatred in the hearts and minds of the people of this region; hatred that makes these people feel that they are fighting for their rights all alone; hatred that makes them feel that the world is against them; hatred that enhances the possibility of the present-day conflicts to escalate into full fledged wars. The presence of this radical ideology, widespread ignorance and illiteracy throughout the region, the vast oil reserves, which have been the center of policy making of the western imperial powers coupled with the growing problem of water scarcity makes the present situation a perfect recipe for future water wars.

The absence of international laws has given a green signal to the kingships and non-democratic regimes present throughout the Middle East to intimidate and coerce their neighbors in order to direct the flow of water resources to their advantage. Intimidation and coercion has led them to believe that aggression is the only solution to solving their water scarcity problem, which has resulted in manifold increases in the defense budgets leaving very little room for human resource development. “Might is Right” philosophy being practiced throughout the Middle East has augmented the possibility of future water conflicts.

Furthermore, Middle East region has one of the fastest growing rates of population in the world. This can be gauged from the fact that the population is estimated to double every twenty years. Add to this dimension, the lack of investment in the human resource capital (table 4), one has the perfect formula for future disasters. Furthermore, the huge gap between the present water supply and demand is expected to grow to uncontrollable proportions. With the limited water resources at their disposal and the rapidly increasing population, the future of the Middle East and North African region looks very hostile and unfriendly.

Water and environment pollution has further dented the supply of clean and fresh water throughout the region. While many measures have been taken to gradually maintain and decrease the level of water pollution, the presence of oil refineries and other highly pollution-oriented industries have not made things easy for the governments of this region. In addition to that, newer water exploitation methods have not only put the marine lives in danger but also have contaminated the present sources of water. As a result, water pollution and exploitation have increased the problems of Middle East governments and have become a potent factor in the problem of water scarcity.

Dependence of Middle East economies on oil has left them high and dry. They are unable to compete at the global level as product diversity is unknown to them. Lack of human resource development, widespread poverty and illiteracy are additional burdens on the stagnant economies of the region. If the population keeps growing at the present rate and investment in human resources and other equally important social sectors is not increased then very little hope exists for those who believe that lack of essential resources (such as water) will pave way for paradigm changes in the technological and political spheres (Wolf, 2000).

The present unrest on the Middle East geopolitical borders is only the beginning of what will turn out to be an uncontrollable and inevitable war over the present problem of water scarcity. Neither better water-supply alternatives exist nor water-demand management is being properly carried out. The social unrest is already creeping in as the present governments continue to identify the policies of external sources as the cause of their water scarcity problems.

If the international community does not take impartial action, which results in just and realistic distribution of water resources and an economically good future, then the present state of affairs in the Middle East will further escalate into a much larger conflict: a water war!


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Although you can leverage our expertise for any writing task, we have a knack for creating flawless papers for the following document types.


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A Holistic Response to Crime Victimization
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Post Covid-19 Economic Recovery
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Undergrad. (yrs 3-4)
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We Analyze Your Problem and Offer Customized Writing

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