How Climate Change Can Affect Middle East Relationships

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How Climate Change Can Affect Middle East Relationships

The Euphrates-Tigris basin has been shrinking in the last decades, a crucial water source in the middle east. The gradual loss of water out can cause potential conflict between countries of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria.

The Sirwan river in Iraq, a tributary of the Tigris that originates in Iran, is drying up. And the lack of rainfall in Iraq is making matters worse.  

Neighbouring countries Iran and Turkey are building big dams to address water scarcity. Iran is diverting water through its 48-kilometre tunnels. This action has reduced the water flow in Iraqi rivers and has a punishing effect on its local villagers who depend on it for their livelihood. Water scarcity in the area has caused 70 families from the village to move out and the closing of a primary school. If the river continues to dry out, more families will soon be leaving the area (Bruneau and Rasheed, 2021).

The study report “Climate change, water and future cooperation and development in the Euphrates-Tigris basin” examines the future impacts of climate change on water sources and the economic and political challenges in the Euphrates-Tigris basin. The area is shared by the countries of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.

The report finds that climate change will aggravate more water shortages and water quality problems, making it harder to sustain farming and livelihoods depending on the ecosystems. It mentions:

“A failure to mitigate climate-related water risks can contribute to poverty, food insecurity, and unemployment in rural farming communities, and eventually lead to displacement and internal migration at a larger scale than is seen today.”

Additional findings show that climate change impacts differ from urban and rural areas. Deteriorating water quality will affect drinking water supplies in the cities, while rural-to-urban area migration will pressure urban water systems.

Water scarcity in rural areas will increase local violence and conflict between community groups. Rising poverty and unemployment due to declining agricultural productivity and loss of livelihoods will raise discontent with political authorities.

However, the findings are not all gloom and doom, and there is room for optimism, and the anticipated future challenges can open opportunities in the area. The report advises that the region could rethink and ramp up basin-wide cooperation, including deeper economic integration of the water and energy sectors.

Riparian countries could expand their awareness and understanding of climate risk and opportunities and increase their climate adaptation capacity.

Turkey’s adaptive capacity is considered more significant than other riparian states. The report gives recommendations.

Read the full study report by clicking on the link provided in the “Sources” section below.


Mueller, A., Detges, A., Pohl, B., Reuter, M., Rochowski, L., Volkholz, J., & Woertz, E. (2021 November). Climate change, water and future cooperation and development in the Euphrates-Tigris basin. Cascades. Retrieved from

Bruneau, C. & Rasheed, A. (2021, September 8). As its rivers shrink, Iraq thirsts for regional cooperation. Reuters. Retrieved from

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