Why a parched Iran may seek peace

Climate change’s effect on the Middle East has already helped push deals between Israel and two Arab states. Will Iran be next?

A view of the Qom River in Qom, Iran.

Iran and the United States resumed talks in Vienna on Thursday, and from news reports, one might think the Middle East’s future rests on a result that restrains Iran’s aggression and nuclear ambitions. Yet other negotiations are afoot that may have far more impact on the region. They are not over weapons but over water.

In March, Bahrain signed a $3 million deal with the Israeli state water company Mekorot to tap its knowledge on water desalination. That follows a similar deal in which Israeli startup Watergen will provide Al Dahra Agricultural Co. of the United Arab Emirates with technology to produce drinking water from humidity in the air. Both deals come after Bahrain and the UAE normalized relations with Israel last year.

In fact, it may be that the two Arab states decided to recognize Israel in part to get help in coping with the effects of climate change on water supplies. The Middle East is heating up faster than any other region. Forecasts indicate parts like Bahrain and the UAE may not be livable in 30 years. The World Bank predicts the Middle East and North Africa will see the highest economic losses from climate-related water scarcity.

That makes collaboration over water issues far more appealing than conflict over religion, Israel, or other traditional issues. “Climate change is a faceless enemy that knows no borders and building fences will not be enough. We need regional cooperation,” Michael Herzog, a former Israeli general and fellow at the Washington Institute, told The Times of Israel.

In particular, Iran has struggled with acute droughts, resulting in regular protests by farmers over water supplies. About 85% of the country is arid or semiarid, and now higher temperatures have forced the regime to improve water management. Iran’s Department of Environment estimates about 70% of the population will be forced to leave the country by 2050. Such a possibility could push Iranian leaders to seek cooperation from their Arab neighbors – the very neighbors now cooperating with Israel on water solutions.

Environmental cooperation already exists between Iran and the Gulf states. Since 1978, they have worked together on protecting their shared marine areas from pollution. Expanding that collaboration to water resources could result in a potential for “environmental peacemaking.”

They have models to follow. For nearly three decades, Israel and Jordan have cooperated on water supplies with the help of the nonprofit group EcoPeace. Another example is the Indus Waters Treaty, brokered by the World Bank in 1960, which brought archrivals Pakistan and India together to cooperate on the Indus water basin.

History has many examples of nations deciding to cooperate rather than compete over natural resources, leading to periods of peace. Faced with a common foe like climate change, the Middle East might be next. Weapons have helped divide the region. A shared thirst in a parched land might bring it together.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Why a parched Iran may seek peace
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today