Middle East Report 271

Summer 2014


Demand for fuel and water in the Middle East is rapidly increasing. Populations are growing, as are expectations of middle-class levels of consumption. Supplies of fuel and water are finite, however, and renewable water reserves are dwindling fast. The summer issue of Middle East Report warns of the resource crises to come in the era of climate change. In the main, these are crises of inequality, not scarcity.

The Middle East is usually characterized as oil-rich and water-poor. In her incisive primer, Jeannie Sowers shows that this canard erases huge variations between and within the countries of the region. More to the point, the glib generalization obscures the political, social and environmental factors that determine who gets access to adequate fuel and water and who does not.

Fossil fuels, of course, are the region’s energy source of choice and the main reason for its geopolitical importance. Middle East Report interviews Toby Jones about “energy security,” a term spreading like an oil spot into everyday parlance that masks so many motives of profit and power. Dina Zayed and Jeannie Sowers tell the more encouraging tale of Egyptians’ campaign against polluting coal-fired cement plants.

Middle Eastern states are beginning to make the investments in solar or wind power that seem sensible for a sun-baked region with vast open spaces. In the meantime, many states are seeking the quicker fix of nuclear power plants. Nicholas Seeley reports on Jordan’s move in the nuclear direction. Bassel Burgan, a prominent Jordanian activist, tells Middle East Report why he is against nuclear power in his country.

Francesca de Chatel and Mohammad Raba‘a relate the history of manufactured drought in Wadi Barada, the river valley whose waters once earned Damascus the title “paradise of the Orient.” The Syrian regime drilled boreholes around the Barada’s springs to fill swimming pools and garden hoses in suburbs built for the army and intelligence service officer corps. Water bubbles under the surface of the political violence in this part of Syria.

Also featured: Katherine Hennessey attends the raucous, rough-and-tumble Yemeni theater; Narges Bajoghli parses new Iranian depictions of the Iran-Iraq war on film; David H. Price reviews Hugh Wilford’s America’s Great Game; and more.

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For further information, contact Chris Toensing at ctoensing@merip.org.

Middle East Report is published by the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP), a progressive, independent organization based in Washington, DC. Since 1971 MERIP has provided critical analysis of the Middle East, focusing on political economy, popular struggles, and the implications of US and international policy for the region.

see http://www.merip.org/mer-271-fuel-water-coming-crises