By Sara Jerome,
Water crises in the Middle East are helping "radicalize" the region, according to VICE.
The inaccessibility of clean drinking water, water scarcity, drought, and food insecurity all combine to "make communities vulnerable—especially to extremist groups. By either providing water access or holding it hostage, militants like Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), the Sunni extremist group's arm in Yemen, and ISIS take advantage of the shortage to buy the population's gratitude or exert," the report said.
The problem is on clear display in Yemen, where "water scarcity is correlated to its conflict," VICE reported, citing Marcus King, a professor at George Washington University. "As the Houthi insurgency fights against forces still loyal to the exiled president—and Saudi air strikes continue in support of Hadi—AQAP is building wells and other water infrastructure in Yemen's rural villages to win support."
Daniel Pipes, scholar and president of the Middle East Forum think tank, says water crises represent an "ultimate catastrophe" for the region, which is plagued with so many other challenges.
“The Middle East suffers from so many obvious problems – despotism and anarchy, civil wars and refugees, misogyny and jihad – that the looming desertification of the region tends to slip into the background,” he told The Jerusalem Post.
“Yet, the prospect of agricultural collapse and massive dislocation of peoples looms over this as an ultimate catastrophe,” he said.
“Historically, living in an arid region inspired peoples of the Middle East carefully to husband their water sources over the long term,” Pipes said. “Only in the past half century or so has this caution been discarded in favor of a mentality of reckless short-term exploitation.”
Blood has already been shed in the Middle East over water. "There is a water war going on in the Middle East. Behind the headline stories of brutal slaughter as Sunni militants carve out a religious state covering Iraq and Syria, there lies a battle for the water supplies that sustain these desert nations," Yale Environment 360 reported.
Analysts have predicted for decades that pressure on water resources would spark wars in this region. In 1985, eventual Secretary-General of the United Nations Boutros Boutros Ghali said, "The next war in the Middle East will be fought over water, not politics," according to BBC News.