Water and ‘imperfect peace’ in the Euphrates–Tigris river basin
MetadataShow full item record
CitationKibaroglu, A. & Sayan, R. C. (January 2021, ). Water and ‘imperfect peace’ in the Euphrates–Tigris river basin. International Affairs, 97 (1), pp. 139–155. Doi : https://doi.org/10.1093/ia/iiaa161
Transboundary water politics in the Euphrates–Tigris (ET) basin has long developed in tandem with the various political confrontations that have taken place among Iraq, Syria and Turkey. However, since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the beginnings of domestic unrest in Syria in 2011, transboundary water relations have been pursued within the context of an unstable international security environment, particularly with the emergence of non-state armed groups who have used water as a weapon against their opponents.1 At the same time, however, cooperative mechanisms have also been initiated by riparian politicians, diplomats and water line ministries as well as informal and external actors. This article sets out to examine the various emerging actors and mechanisms operating in this context, arguing that their coexistence in the basin demonstrates a case of ‘imperfect peace’. The concept of ‘imperfect peace’ is used to acknowledge the fact that relations can be reinforced through peaceful interactions, negotiations, agreements, treaties and diplomacy at multiple levels, even in conditions that do not amount to war, but where violence is present.2 With a specific focus on the ET river basin, the main objective of this article is to address policy-relevant research questions, such as how various actors and mechanisms operate within and influence transboundary water relations under the conditions of ‘imperfect peace’, and what kind of joint security mechanisms the riparian states should create to cope with violent non-state actors who control water and infrastructure. In reflecting on these questions, the article will analyse the strategic role that water plays in environmental peacebuilding and reflect on possible ways to improve the protection of water during and after armed conflicts.