Mesopotamia (Between the Rivers) refers to the area watered by the rivers Tigris and Euphrates whose water comes from rain falling on the mountains of Turkey. Turkey claims the right to use this water, though custom and International Law normally gives countries along a river a right to water they have used in the past.

Turkey's water development plans, which include a number of new dams and irrigation projects, are taking the water of these rivers.

These rivers supply the agricultural and domestic needs of the downstream countries. If the water continues to be extracted by Turkey there could be conflict added to the Gulf war and its aftermath.

During the Gulf War Iraq was bombed from Turkey and Syria sent troops to Saudi Arabia and closed its frontier with Iraq. Disputes over water would put Syria and Iraq on the same side, opposing Turkey.

Turkey is suspected of wishing to control the northern oil fields of Iraq, though its government has denied any such wish. Nevertheless the Turks would prefer that the Kurds of this area should not gain independence and act as a model for the Kurds of Turkey. Turkey has not formally renounced its claim to the former Vilayet of Mosul in which the oil fields are found.

In August 1991 Turkey took advantage of the demilitarized state of the border regions to chase Kurdish rebels into Iraq and occupy part of the Iraqi frontier zone, confident no doubt of the gratitude of the coalition powers for Turkey's support in the Gulf war. The Turkish government has denied any intention of wishing to annex any part of Iraq and assured that they would leave "as soon as possible". Turkey is still maintaining influence in the area.

Climate Change is likely to lead to less rainfall in Turkey and so, even greater restrictions on the water in the rivers.

Last revised 24/02/10


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