“Islamic State Militants Use Water as Weapon in Western Iraq”
Reuters, June 3, 2015
“Islamic State militants have closed gates of a dam on the Euphrates River in western Iraq, reducing the water and giving them greater freedom of movement to attack government forces downstream on the southern bank, local officials said. The militants have redirected the flow of water to their advantage on the battlefield around the city of Ramadi. But the tactic also threatens southern provinces with drought and the water has been reduced to worrying levels, the officials said. The Euphrates has acted as a barrier between the militants who control its northern bank and pro-government forces who are trying to advance towards Ramadi on the other side. A spokesman for the governor of Anbar province, of which Ramadi is the capital, said security forces would now have to redeploy along the river to prevent the insurgents from infiltrating. ‘Previously they had to monitor only the bridges and certain areas, but now all of the river will be crossable,’ Hikmat Suleiman said. … Falih al-Essawi, a senior provincial security official, said the government had opened another dam to channel water from the Habbaniya Lake back into the Euphrates and prevent shortages in the southern provinces. But he said this was only a temporary measure that would not be effective for more than three days. ‘The government must act immediately otherwise dire consequences and an environmental catastrophe will be inevitable,’ he said.”
Quickie analysis: Targeting an enemy’s water supply is not particularly new, but this takes it to a new level.