Mosul Dam Collapse Would Throw Iraq into Chaos, Upend War on ISIS
The Mosul Dam, the fourth largest in the Middle East, was described by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 2006 as “the most dangerous dam in the world,” in terms of the erosion potential of its foundation.
Last week, the US commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland told reporters in Baghdad: “The likelihood of the dam collapsing is something we are trying to determine right now… All we know is that when it goes, it’s going to go fast and that’s bad.”
At full capacity, the hydroelectric Mosul dam, which is located on the Tigris River upstream of the city, holds about 11.1 cubic kilometers of water and provides electricity for its 1.7 million residents.
Its collapse would send a surge of water down the heavily populated Tigris River valley, putting Mosul under 20 meters of water. Baghdad’s streets would be flooded, causing an estimated death toll of 500,000 and leaving a million people homeless.
US concern over this potential disaster has typically spawned a surge of Middle East conspiracy theories.
One theory making the rounds of Baghdad this week accused the Americans of inflating the danger to promote its agenda for Iraq’s partition. The autonomous Kurdish KRG, which is responsible for policing the dam, would gain full control of the facility.
Another theory accuses the Americans of fabricating a flood alert to scare the Mosul population into fleeing the city ahead of their offensive to capture it from ISIS.
Some Iraqi politicians are certain that international business deals and graft are involved in the flood scare.
Washington dismisses these theories and insists that the danger is very real.
Built on a karst foundation, concerns about the Mosul dam’s stability date back to 1986, when the reservoir was filled. Twenty-five years of negligent maintenance have taken their toll. Under the Saddam regime, funds for maintenance and materials for repairs were in short supply due to the international sanctions in force from 1990.
The Italian Trevi Group which built the dam is negotiating a $2 billion transaction for upgrading the 750 MW electricity generating plant, but there is no word on a final deal.
The negligence therefore continues, even though it is obvious to all the parties concerned that the dam’s collapse would bring upon Iraq a huge catastrophe in every sense. It would also change the military situation from end to end for years to come – and especially the war on ISIS.