May 12-18, 2022 | Issue 7 - CENTCOM
Elizabeth Leoce, Muskan Muskan, Marco Parks, Giorgio Tiberio, CENTCOM Team
Hannah Norton, Editor; Jennifer Loy, Chief of Staff
Aras river in the vicinity of Julfa-Iran
Date: May 13, 2022
Location: Turkey, Iran, Iraqi borders, Aras river, Tigris river
Parties involved: Turkey; Iran; Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian; Iranian parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf; Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK); Iranian proxies Liwa Fatemiyoun, Liwa Zainebiyoun, and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba; Iraq; Syria
The event: Iran publicly denounced Turkey for constructing dams on the Aras and Tigris rivers, escalating a dispute that has been confined to diplomatic channels. Amir-Abdollahian claimed that Turkey’s dam projects are “unacceptable” initiatives that may reduce water flows and cause environmental harm in Iraq and Iran. Ghalibaf said Iran also views the dispute from a national security perspective. In response, Turkey blamed Iran’s water shortages on mismanagement of water resources, asserting that Iran’s accusations are a diversion to diminish Iran’s water grievances. This dispute comes as existing tensions between Turkey and Iran develop over the new Iraqi government and the control of Sinjar in Iraq.
Analysis & Implications:
Reduced water supply will very likely negatively impact the Iranian and Iraqi economies. There is a roughly even chance that droughts will become more frequent, as the dams will likely cause the Tigris-Euphrates basin to lose more stored freshwater. Farmland will likely dry in the long-term, almost certainly leading to decreased harvests in Iran and Iraq and causing electricity and drinking water shortages. Internal displacement will very likely increase within both countries, as shortages will likely force populations in rural regions to migrate to urban areas, likely straining the capacity of the government to provide housing, food, and law enforcement.
Increased tensions from Turkey’s dam construction on the Aras and Tigris rivers will likely increase the probability of military confrontation in Syria and Iraq. The confrontation will likely lead Iranian-sponsored militias, such as Liwa Fatemiyoun and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, to become more aggressive in northern Syria, where Turkish forces are active around Afrin. In Iraq, the increased likelihood of an Iranian-Turkish confrontation will likely affect the Iraqi region of Sinjar due to Iranian militias' involvement in the Turkey-PKK conflict.
Date: May 16, 2022
Location: Beirut, Lebanon
Parties involved: Lebanon; nationalist Christian Lebanese Forces party; Hezbollah; Saudi Arabia; Iran; International Monetary Fund (IMF)
The event: Preliminary results from Lebanon’s parliamentary elections on Sunday showed Hezbollah losing its majority seat and projecting the Lebanese Forces as the winning party. The Lebanese Forces are strong critics of Hezbollah and backed by Saudi Arabia, Iran's regional adversary. Many other independent candidates took up seats as well. Hezbollah was able to retain 27 seats. Unless Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces decide on leadership, preliminary results show a polarized parliament, divided between pro and anti-Hezbollah lawmakers.
Analysis & Implications:
A hung Parliament will likely make it difficult for the newly elected government to pass laws essential to begin economic recovery, as differences between the parties will likely cause economic and political stagnation. Hezbollah will likely make an effort to prevent the Lebanese Forces government from implementing structural reforms required by the IMF to release funds for financial revival. Lebanese Forces’ failure to bring economic development will likely result in enhanced public frustration and discontent, which will likely help Hezbollah in retaining its influence over Lebanese politics.
Hezbollah’s loss in the elections will likely prompt the organization to use threats of violence to destabilize the socio-political environment, very likely preventing the newly elected government from working effectively. The group will likely try to create a political vacuum in government institutions by intentionally voting against key parliamentary decisions on government formation, such as voting for the President and the Prime Minister. This will very likely worsen the political and economic crisis of the country.
Partisan conflict in Parliament is likely to cause tension among the multiple religious sects of Lebanon, as sectarian divides over religious hegemony are likely to persist. Hezbollah losing the majority likely means there was a low Shia voter turnout, likely suggesting that supporters are dissatisfied with the group. There is a roughly even chance that low Shia voter turnout could also be due to voter complacency. Citizens that did not vote for Hezbollah or the Lebanese Forces likely voted for the independent candidates who likely do not associate themselves with sectarian identities.
Date: May 16, 2022
Location: Sher Khan Bandar, Kunduz Province, Afghanistan
Parties involved: the Taliban-controlled government of Afghanistan; Taliban forces; Afghani citizens; Tajikistan; Tajik border guards; ISIS-K; Pakistan; Uzbekistan; Turkmenistan
The event: A firefight between Taliban forces and Tajik border guards took place in Kunduz Province. According to a local source, the clash began after a verbal confrontation with the Taliban firing first. The gunfight lasted for four hours and has been denied by local Taliban officials, while senior Taliban leaders in Kabul have remained silent. This is not the first time border clashes have taken place, as skirmishes have also occurred on the borders with Iran and Pakistan.
Analysis & Implications:
These frequent skirmishes will very likely deteriorate relations between the Taliban and regional neighbors. These conflicts are likely caused by a lack of communication between guards on both sides and the aggressive behavior of Taliban patrols. Countries bordering Afghanistan, such as Tajikistan and Pakistan, will very likely send more military units to their borders, increasing their security. Clashes along the border will almost certainly hinder border traffic and affect the flow of humanitarian aid, very likely increasing Afghai’s malnutrition and poverty.
Terrorist groups opposing the Taliban, such as ISIS-K, will very likely exploit these clashes for recruitment efforts in neighboring countries. ISIS-K will very likely increase the distribution of its propaganda in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. This will very likely lead more members to join ISIS-K, increasing the operational capacities of the group. There is a roughly even chance that ISIS-K will rely on the recruitment of foreign members to establish permanent cells, which will likely be used to launch attacks in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan to increase the international activity and relevance of the group.
________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)
 Is a water crisis brewing between Turkey and Iran?, Al-Monitor, May 2022, https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2022/05/water-crisis-brewing-between-turkey-and-iran?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily%205162022%20May%2016%202022%20311&utm_content=daily%205162022%20May%2016%202022%20311+CID_549de5bff3c80e5d87149a9c961b4058&utm_source=campmgr&utm_term=Is%20a%20water%20crisis%20brewing%20between%20Turkey%20and%20Iran
 Hezbollah and allies lose majority in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections, The Washington Post, May 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/17/hezbollah-lebanon-election-geagea/
 Lebanon elections point to a shift, but more turmoil ahead, Associated Press, May 2022, https://apnews.com/article/religion-elections-lebanon-legislature-219cfd52e9d913c6f5254eb259a3ed0b
 Taliban Forces Clash with the Tajik Border Guards Near Sher Khan Bandar, The Khaama Press Agency, May 2022, https://www.khaama.com/taliban-forces-clash-with-the-tajik-border-guards-near-sher-khan-bandar85939/