Winnipeg Jewish Review  
Site Search:
Home  |  Archives  |  Contact Us
Features Local Israel Next Generation Arts/Op-Eds Editorial/Letters Links Obituary/In Memoriam

Daniel Pipes

Daniel pipes: Iraq's Coming Apocalypse

by Daniel Pipes, March 27, 2016



Washington Times


No, it's not ISIS or rampaging Shi'i militias. It's the Mosul Dam, Iraq's largest, and its possible collapse, perhaps leading to millions of deaths. Those in the know worry catastrophe could strike this spring, as snows melt and build an uncontrollable water pressure.


Hastily built in wartime for the dictator Saddam Hussein by a German-Italian consortium, the Mosul Dam was located where it is because one of Hussein's cronies came from the area and used his pull, despite the fact that engineers knew from the start that its porous gypsum base could not sustain such a huge structure.


What was then called the Saddam Dam opened in 1984 and within two years needed constant grouting, that is, day and night infusions of microfine cement, lots of it – 200 million pounds over the decades – to keep it from collapsing. The grouting keeps the foundational problem from worsening but does not solve it.


The years went by; fortunately, there was no disaster on the American watch. Then, during a fateful ten-day period, August 7-17, 2014, the Islamic State (ISIS) seized control of the dam. While the group neither sabotaged nor blew up the structure, grouting stopped for six weeks and the whole repair regime – especially the skilled workers and the supply of cement – henceforth became less consistent.


As a result, the dam has steadily weakened over the past 19 months, to the point that experts worry that a surge of spring waters will overwhelm it and cause its collapse. That the dam's two emergency floodgates are broken and cannot be opened to relieve intense pressure renders the situation the more fraught.


The consequences of a collapse are terrifying: A wall of water 45-70 feet high would reach Mosul, a city of some one million inhabitants, in about four hours. Then the flood wave would roll down the Tigris River valley to other cities, including the capital Baghdad, before dispersing in a wide flood. A huge number of immediate casualties would be followed by drought, disease, lack of electricity, chaos, and crime, ensuring biblical-level miseries and fatalities.


For years, quiet grouting and blithe assurances kept the precariousness of the Mosul Dam obscure. But heightened alarms coming from the U.S. government since the start of 2016, relying primarily on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates, appear finally to have awakened Iraqis to the dangers they face. The U.S. embassy in Baghdad has even issued a highly unusual "Mosul Dam Preparedness Fact Sheet" with advice (in English, alas) on evacuation steps, educational needs, and relief efforts.


In contrast, the Iraqi government issues a stream of dishonest assurances that there's no problem. Mohsen al-Shimari, Iraq's minister for Water Resources and official in charge of the dam, says "The danger is not imminent, it's far off. The danger is 1 in 1,000" (itself, an unacceptable risk). Or he insists that Mosul Dam is in "no greater" danger than other dams. At other times he actually claims "there is no problem in the dam that may lead to its collapse." Note the inconsistency, itself a sign of duplicity.


In keeping with this irresponsible, even criminal nonchalance, Iraqi authorities have done next to nothing to prepare for a possible collapse. Yes, they claim that a contingency plan exists, but no one has seen it, much less learned its details, so what use can it have in time of crisis? Yes, they signed a $300 million deal with Trevi, an Italian company, to repair and maintain the Dam, but this is a Band-Aid fix, not a long-term solution.


To make matters worse, the dam's most vulnerable city, Mosul, labors under the rule of the apocalyptic Islamic State, whose disregard for human life and extreme hostility toward the outside world negates both crisis planning and international assistance. But there is a silver lining here; ISIS' monstrous rule has caused Mosul's population to decline from 2½ million two years ago to about 1 million now, thereby reducing the number of potential casualties there.


Assuming the dam survives this year's snow melt, only one long-term solution exists: to complete the Badush Dam downstream from the Mosul Dam that would mitigate the consequences of a collapse. Started soon after the grouting began in 1986 but halted in 1990, this ancillary dam will cost US$10 billion that the Iraqi government cannot afford. But it must be the country's highest priority.



<<Previous Article       Next Article >>
Subscribe to the Winnipeg Jewish Review
  • RBC Royal Bank
  • Fillmore Riley
  • Jewish Federation of Winnipeg
  • Winter's Collision Repair
  • Gray Academy
  • Coughlin Insurance
  • Joyce Rykiss
  • CHW
  • Cantor's Meats
  • JCFS
  • Esther and Sid Halpern Shana Tovah
  • GTP
  • Jim Muir
  • Booke & Partners
  • Sobey's
  • Commercial Pool
  • CDN Visa
  • Jack & Debbie Lipkin
  • Daniel Friedman and Rob Dalgliesh
  • Rady JCC
  • The Bob Silver Family
  • Carol and Barry McArton
  • Shindico
  • D'Arcy & Deacon LLP
  • Shinewald Family
  • Piston Ring
  • Bruce Shefrin
  • Munroe Pharmacy
  • Fair Service
  • Eddie's Gravel Supply Ltd.
  • John Bucklaschuk
  • Tyler Bucklaschuk
  • Kromar Printing
  • Daien Denture Clinic
  • Bob & Shirley Freeman
  • Protexia
  • Ixtapa Travel
  • Superlite
  • Brent Schacter Sora Ludwig
  • Dr Ted and Harriet Lyons
  • Amalgamated Drywall Systems Ltd.
  • Josef Ryan
  • Munroe Dental Centre
  • Chisick Family
  • Broadway Law Group
  • Laufman Reprographics
  • Dakota Chiropractic Office
  • Maric Homes
  • Artista Homes
  • Southwynn Homes
  • Tradesman Mechanical
  • Imperial Soap
  • Winnipeg Drapery
  • JCFS
  • Western Scrap Metals Inc.
  • Taverna Rodos
  • Jim Gauthier
  • Capital Grill
  • CVA Systems
  • Stella's
  • Chochy's
  • Accurate Lawn & Garden
  • Dr. Gary Levine
  • Fetching Style
  • Lazar Family
  • Dr. Marshall Stitz
  • Michel and Danita Aziza and family
  • Ronald B. Zimmerman
  • Dimensions Insurance
  • HUB
  • Doheny Securities Limited
  • Orthodox Union
  • Allan Davies
  • City Sheet Metal
  • John Orlikow
  • Ross Eadie
  • Ambassador Mechanical
  • Winnipeg Prophecy Conference
  • Thorvaldson Care
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Total Lighting Sales
  • Miller's Super Valu Meats
  • Pitblado
  • Cavalier Candies
  • Erickson Motors
  • Canadian Magen David Adom
  • Bridges for Peace
  • Elaine and Bernie Lofchick & family
  • Cascade Financial Group
  • Sorrento's
  • Canadian Friends of Boys Town Jerusalem
  • East India Company
  • Nikos
  • Sean Fisher
  • Sarel Canada
  • Santa Lucia Pizza
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • Roofco Winnipeg Roofing
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • Nachum Bedein
Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.