"And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness, the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us. But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief. "

Khalil Gibran (How I Became a Madman)



Thursday, May 26, 2016

Water Issues Are Crucial to Stability in Syria's Euphrates Valley (Fabrice Balanche- The Washington Institute)

Regardless of who drives the Islamic State out of the Euphrates Valley agricultural zone, they will need to address the legacy of failed regime irrigation policies that are once again creating tension among local tribes.
Military movements in eastern Syria suggest that a major offensive will take place this year to eradicate the Islamic State (IS) presence in the area. The Syrian army is advancing toward Deir al-Zour and Tabqa with the help of Russian aviation, while U.S.-supported Kurdish and Arab fighters under the flag of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are closing in from the north (see PolicyWatch 2614, "The Battle for Deir al-Zour: A U.S.-Russian Bridge Against the Islamic State?"). Meanwhile, the Arab tribes living under IS rule in the Euphrates Valley have pledged allegiance to the group for now, but they would likely abandon it if outside forces posed a serious threat.
Accordingly, the time has come to prepare for "the day after IS" in the Euphrates area, particularly regarding the various economic issues that will be key to local political stabilization. Regardless of who controls the area next -- whether the Assad regime, the SDF, or other players -- they will face the problem of water scarcity, which has long driven the area's political and economic dynamics.