Defining the Geopolitics of a Thirsty WorldSM
Peer To Peer Water Diplomacy: A Solution to the Iranian Water Crisis?

Via Future Directions International, some commentary on an interesting – yet potentially controversial – effort by Israel to help Iran mitigate its water crisis:

Background

In a previous Strategic Analysis Paper, this author described how the blame for Iran’s water crisis rests with the Islamic theocracy in Tehran. The reformation or removal of the regime itself is easier said than done, but a possible solution for Western democracies is to instead engage the Iranian people directly. The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, said as much in a recent weekly address. In a widely circulated video, Netanyahu spoke directly to the Iranian people about how Israel plans to ‘launch a Farsi website with detailed plans on how Iranians can recycle their waste water [and] save their crops and feed their families.’

Comment

Israel, like other states neighbouring Iran, is worried about the possible consequences of a water crisis. Over the next 30 years, Iran could cease to be inhabitable and, according to a former Iranian Minister of Agriculture, Issa Kalantari, a lack of water could force up to 50 million Iranians to expatriate themselves. With a small border, limited water supplies and changing demographics, Israel would be unable to deal with the humanitarian situation that such an exodus would produce. Much the same could be said about Israel’s Arab neighbours. Keeping Iran’s people inside Iran is, over the longer term, beneficial for both the country itself and its neighbours.

Recent events, however, have made it abundantly clear that the Iranian regime is wholly uninterested in any measure that addresses the country’s water bankruptcy, if it means revealing negligence by the regime. In fact, Tehran is expected to increase construction projects as the United States reinstates sanctions and foreign firms withdraw contracts, with obvious detriment to Iranian water security. Nevertheless, the regime’s natural response to any offer of outside assistance, especially from the West, has, ironically, provided a solution.

Iran is arguably a rogue regime that does not respond to normal diplomatic overtures, especially from countries it wants to wipe off the map. Iran’s neighbours do not want to be burdened with migrants fleeing a water-starved Iran, but the nature of the regime prevents the establishment of bilateral confidence-building measures that would encourage an official exchange of ideas and solutions.

An attempted rapprochement with the Iranian regime would be both ill-advised and an unnecessary gesture, which is why Western states and their regional partners, while sanctioning Iran, should help its water-stricken people by making it easier for them to access information the regime is less inclined to offer or act upon. Solutions, whether they come from within the country or from outside, routinely fail to penetrate the halls of power. There are people in Iran aware of the events that led to, and continue to prolong, their country’s water crisis. A restricted information environment and a disinterested ruling class, however, mean that assistance must come from the outside. Netanyahu’s video is an example of this. The regime’s vague reference to Israeli interference and “overstepping,” could paradoxically form the basis of a foreign effort to covertly deliver vital water saving technology to the Iranian people, without jeopardising the West’s approach to Iran.

Although there are obvious limits to what a single Farsi website can do, it is part of a broader policy approach, which needs to be supported and expanded. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security monitor social media sites, withdraw money from personal bank accounts and back companies that create applications to spy on people. Western governments should be prepared to counter these infractions, by making it easier for the Iranian people to access the means, such as VPNs, through which they can protect themselves from the regime’s security apparatus.

Internet freedom could promote a grassroots shift in education, as people gain access to new technology, knowledge and contacts outside Iran. Western democracies should collaborate and come up with a concerted plan to provide the Iranian people with more Internet-sourced outside options that could help them save water and feed their families.

Ultimately, the Iranian people will outlast and outmatch the regime’s bitter efforts to supress its critics. The Ayatollahs rejected Netanyahu’s offer outright, but failed to understand that Israel’s message was not meant for them. The forced suppression of domestically-sourced solutions has sapped the regime of any sort of legitimacy. A blanket suspicion of advice, based on ambiguous references to “national security”, has ironically provided Western governments an opportunity to “drip-feed” information to the people directly via the Internet. Netanyahu’s gesture to the Iranian people was maligned as “foreign interference”; given the circumstances, however, that kind of low-level interference might not be such a bad idea.



This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 20th, 2018 at 12:23 am and is filed under Iran, Israel.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 

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