Iraq To Submit Water Dispute With Iran To International Court Of Justice

Iran Maintains Lawsuit Is Legally Irrelevant

31 May 2022 by The Water Diplomat

On the 3rd of May, Iraq’s Ministry of Water Resources reiterated its intention to take legal action against Iran over shared watercourses.

Aoun Diab, advisor to the Minister of Water Resources, indicated that a report had been prepared for the Iraqi government following Iran’s refusal to discuss diversions from six rivers that flow from Iran into Iraq. In April, Diab had voiced his concern that current water reserves in Iraq were some 50% lower than at the same time last year.

However, on the 16th of May, Jabar Vattanfada, the director general of Transboundary Rivers and Shared Water Resources at Iran’s Water Resources Management Company, stated that Iran has always released the maximum amount of water available to flow into Iraq. Vattanfada opposed Iraq’s filing of a lawsuit, saying that it was legally irrelevant and that it undermined the good relations between the two countries.

According to Vattanfada, rivers originating in Iran contribute only 6% of the drainage basin of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. He added that during the past water year, Iran had released over 50% of the input of the Harvi and Ozgoleh dams in Kermanshah province, bordering Iraq, despite the current drought.

The intention to submit a case to the International Court of Justice was first announced by the Iraqi Minister of Water Resources on the 22nd of September 2021. At the time, Minister Mahdi Rashid al Hamdani mentioned that no agreement had been reached with Iran and argued that a new water agreement was needed, as the present agreement dates from 1975 and much has changed since that time.  In April 2022, Mr al Hamdani was quoted by the Saudi Al Arabiya news channel as having said that Iran had cut off 90% of water tributaries, resulting in a reduction in Iraq’s total water resources by 20%. The implication was that Iran was not cooperating with Iraq to limit damage during the current drought.  Hamdani stated that Iran’s position was to insist on the terms of the 1975 Algiers agreement and the demarcation between the two countries.    

Separately, Farshid Shokrkhodai, head of the Commission for Sustainable Development, Environment and Water at the Iranian Chamber of commerce, has argued that the Arvand River is the only river that flows from Iran into Iraq. Any shortages of the Arvand River, he said, are manifested by the fact that Turkey has built dams on both the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers upstream.

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