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The Rebirth of Water as a Weapon: IS in Syria and Iraq


The so-called Islamic State (IS) has increasingly used water as a weapon in order to further its political and military aims in Syria and Iraq. In this water-scarce region, IS has retained water and cut off crucial supplies, flooded large areas as well as contaminated resources. The capture of large dams in the Euphrates and Tigris basin has made it possible to deploy the water weapon even more effectively and in a frequent, systematic, consistent and flexible manner. Measures to counter this weaponisation effectively have been limited to military means. However, several internal constraints create a dilemma for IS as its state-building ambitions conflict with the consequences of the weaponisation of water. The rebirth of using the water weapon in Syria and Iraq raises questions about protecting water infrastructures in conflict and post-conflict settings.
Keywords: Water; conflict; IS; Syria; Iraq; water as a weapon