ISIS blocking flow of
Euphrates from Syria

Government-controlled areas of Iraq's Anbar province are threatened by water shortages.

Tabqa Dam in Syria. (image via Sky News Arabia)

BEIRUT – ISIS has been blocking the flow of the Euphrates River from Syria in a renewed bid to turn the vital waterway into a strategic weapon against the Iraqi government.


“ISIS closed the Tabqa Dam in Syria almost a week ago, causing the water level of the Euphrates River to drop in Anbar’s towns,” a member of the Anbar Provincial Council said Sunday.


Hamid al-Dulaimi warned in an interview with Iraqi Kurdish Bas News that the closure poses a “disaster to Anbar and other provinces” in Iraq.


Meanwhile, a source close to ISIS told Al-Jazeera that the group was using its control over the dams to “put pressure on the Iraqi government as part of the open war between it and the group.”


As concerns rose in Iraq, one official called on the international coalition fighting ISIS to conduct air strikes against the dam, although any such move would threaten water storage and raise the potential of devastating downstream floods.


“We call on the international coalition forces to strike one of the gates of the Tabqa Dam in Syria to allow water to flow into Iraq,” Anbar Provincial Council member Eid Ammash said in a statement carried by Iraqi broadcaster Sumaria News on September 5.


ISIS has already been using water as a weapon in Iraq, closing off gates in the Ramadi Dam along the Euphrates in early June to cut off water supplies to government controlled areas downstream.  


CNN reported at the time that Ramadi move had made it easier for ISIS militants to attack the nearby government controlled towns of Husaybah and Khalidiyah as well as a base in Habbaniya.


Shutting down Tabqa Dam


ISIS controls the Tishreen Dam on the eastern edge of the Aleppo province as well as the Tabqa and Baath dams which are located further downstream on the Euphrates. All three dams produce hydroelectric power and regulate the flow of the river.


An engineer working at the Tabqa Dam told Al-Jazeera on Monday that the water stored in the dam’s Lake Assad reservoir has “reached its upper limit, which is 304 meters high.”


He said that because the dam has stopped operating electricity has been cut off in most villages in Raqqa province for a week.


However, ISIS did partially restore power on Friday night, he added.


The pro-rebel All4Syria news outlet echoed his comments, citing local sources near the Tabqa Dam as saying that water levels at Lake Assad have risen “dramatically” due to the Euphrates River’s movement being stopped.


The sources also mentioned that a number of the dam’s turbines had stopped operating, leading to electricity cuts in the area.


“Anbar disaster”


The blocking of water flowing into Iraq’s Anbar threatens to have a number of serious consequences for the vast desert province where government troops and the Popular Mobilization Militias are waging a campaign against ISIS.


A local official said that the reduced water levels had caused “dryness in vast expanses of agricultural land and the inaction of the generators in the Haditha Dam.”


Hamid al-Dulaimi added that the decreasing water levels had caused Iraqi water treatment plants to break down.


“The deceasing water levels have caused the inaction of the drinking water purification plants connected to the systems that transfer [water] from the Euphrates.”


“The giant pipes… have been blocked because they drew in mud and aquatic plants when stretches of [the Euphrates] River in Anbar dried up.”

Tabqa Dam in Syria. (image via Sky News Arabia)

We call on the international coalition forces to strike one of the gates of the Tabqa Dam in Syria to allow water to flow into Iraq.

  • Nisar

    True to their ancesters ISIS are using water as weapon as was done by their forefathers in the battle of Karbala in Iraq. Their ancesters Yazeed and his followers are cursed till today for the inhuman atrocities commited by them and Hussain (the grand son of prophet Mohammad) who along with his 72 companions including 06 months child were martyred by Yazeed, are remembered for their fight for the right cause and service to mankind. ISIS is destined to be doomed like their forefathers.

    September 16, 2015