Iran’s Lake Urmia is drying up, as a worsening resource crisis spells trouble for Tehran. The Christian Science Monitor reports:
Call it the perfect environmental storm that Iran is now trying to fix after decades of water mismanagement and wasteful practices that critically threaten agriculture and human health, and have now become a top security issue for President Hassan Rouhani’s administration.The salt-encrusted lakebed is only the most obvious example of a water crisis – yet hardly the worst – that is belatedly spurring Iran into action.At Lake Urmia and elsewhere, Iran is adopting water technologies used widely for decades in other countries, including perennial foe Israel. Whether it succeeds in reversing the trend of water depletion could be a test case in an unstable, parched region where dams restrict cross-border water flows, and growing populations face a thirsty future.
Analyses of the Iranian security threat often miss a central piece of the puzzle: Iran’s government, like many other corrupt, ideologically twisted regimes in the developing world, is not very good at many of the basic tasks of governing. The mullahs and their allies have built an unsustainable system that can only survive from year to year by depleting the country’s natural resources and destroying the physical basis of national life. Tehran’s quest for regional hegemony isn’t just driven by abstract ambition, historical nostalgia, and religious zeal—it’s also driven by the realization that Iran must expand in order to acquire the resources it needs to stay afloat.For this reason, Iran’s transition to being a “normal” country and peaceful member of the international system will be much more difficult than many realize. As the sweeping mismanagement that led to the water crisis illustrates, the political and economic structures that grew up under the revolution are both massively dysfunctional and deeply engrained. Just like in Cuba, Venezuela, and the Soviet Union, the rigid application of an unworkable ideology has deformed Iran’s institutions and led to decades of terrible investments and unsustainable policies.The environmental crisis is telling for another reason: it shows that the drive for nuclear weapons is more integral to Iran’s policy than many understand. To persist in making huge financial investments in nuclear development both at the cost of international sanctions and in the face of a countryside that is drying up indicates a very high degree of determination and commitment.Once facts like these are taken into account, the “benign Iran” scenario that animates the Obama Administration’s hopes looks less likely. The end of sanctions wasn’t enough to bring prosperity to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, and Iran’s economic problems are likely much deeper and owe substantially less to international sanctions than did the USSR’s. Among other things, this means that the end of sanctions may bring fewer benefits to Iran than some fear and others hope.For the moment, however, we can enjoy the rich irony that Israeli irrigation techniques are one of the solutions to Iran’s agricultural problems. One hopes that all patent rights will be respected and that the mullahs are sending all necessary royalties to the Zionist Entity.