The most important of which is the Helmand River

What do you know about the causes of the water war between Iran and Afghanistan?
In recent days, Iranian-Afghan relations are experiencing the worst tension since the Taliban movement took control of the country. Since then, Tehran has become apprehensive about the movement's handling of the many contentious issues between the two countries, most notably the waters of the Helmand River, which crosses the border between them.

On Saturday, Iran announced the closure of the "Islam Qal'at Dogaron" crossing between the Afghan cities of Herat and the Iranian Mashhad, which is the most important commercial border crossing between the two countries. This came after skirmishes erupted between the Iranian border guards and elements of the Taliban movement, after the latter deliberately built a road that penetrates in sections of the Iranian border, according to the Iranian "Tasnim" agency.

In a statement, the Special Envoy of the Iranian President to Afghanistan, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, confirmed that the aforementioned road "penetrated the border between the two countries", and that the Iranian border guards prevented this step. Qomi added that his country had raised the issue with the ministries of interior and defense in the "Taliban" government, stressing the need to stop construction work and solve the problem within the framework of the joint border committee.


The most important of which is the Helmand River.. What do you know about the causes of the water war between Iran and Afghanistan? In recent days, Iranian-Afghan relations are experiencing the worst tension since the Taliban movement took control of the country. Since then, Tehran has become apprehensive about the movement's handling of the many contentious issues between the two countries, most notably the waters of the Helmand River, which crosses the border between them.  On Saturday, Iran announced the closure of the "Islam Qal'at Dogaron" crossing between the Afghan cities of Herat and the Iranian Mashhad, which is the most important commercial border crossing between the two countries. This came after skirmishes erupted between the Iranian border guards and elements of the Taliban movement, after the latter deliberately built a road that penetrates in sections of the Iranian border, according to the Iranian "Tasnim" agency.  In a statement, the Special Envoy of the Iranian President to Afghanistan, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, confirmed that the aforementioned road "penetrated the border between the two countries", and that the Iranian border guards prevented this step. Qomi added that his country had raised the issue with the ministries of interior and defense in the "Taliban" government, stressing the need to stop construction work and solve the problem within the framework of the joint border committee.  The Afghan version explains what happened, as "a vehicle belonging to the Iranian forces crossed to the Afghan side and was detained by local officials," according to what the Taliban commissioner in the "Islam Qal'at Dogaron" district told the Afghan "Tolo News" TV. This is the second time, since the Taliban's takeover of Kabul, that the two sides are engaged in border skirmishes, as the border area between Iran's Shaglik and Afghani Nimroz witnessed violent clashes for the same reason last December.  These disputes are only the tip of the iceberg of the contentious files between the two countries, the topics of which range from border problems to refugee issues, and security problems to the water issue. While the latter is the most congested, and the most threatening to break the fragile calm between the two countries, and the outbreak of a water war that may open dangerous scenarios of violence.  New old file The Iranian-Afghan dispute over water revolves primarily around the Helmand River, which originates in the Hindu Kush Mountains in the north-east of Afghanistan, and flows into Lake Hamoun, which has entered Iranian territory, covering more than 1,300 kilometers. This river is the most important water resource for the two countries, and this is the reason for the dispute between them over the division of their shares of that water.  In 1972, the Iranian and Afghan governments concluded the Helmand Water Sharing Agreement, according to which Iran's right to a share of the river's water equivalent to 26 cubic meters of Helmand River water per second, or 850 million cubic meters annually, was recognized in exchange for the latter's supplying electricity to Afghanistan. This agreement, which lasted until 1996, when Kabul decided to build the "Kamal Khan" dam on the river's course in order to generate its electricity needs. This project will be suspended due to the war in the country, before it can be resumed in 2011.  Afghanistan completed the construction of the dam in 2014, after which the government of President Ashraf Ghani announced that it was no longer possible for Iran to obtain its share of the waters of the Helmand River due to climatic changes that affected the levels of river flow. Accusing Iran of criticizing the step of building the Kamal Khan Dam, because it removed Afghanistan from the need to import electricity from Iran, and brought it closer to achieving self-sufficiency in electrical energy.  The same accusations were repeated by Ashraf Ghani's government to Iran regarding the obstruction of the "Salma" dam, which was inaugurated on the course of the Harirud River passing from the Afghan state of Herat towards the Iranian province of Khorasan. This dam was built with an Afghan-Indian partnership, as it was supposed to produce electricity with a capacity of 46 megawatts per hour, and irrigate more than 80,000 agricultural lands.  The Iranian Consul General at the time denied these allegations, saying: "Such issues are not important to the government of Iran and most public opinion and senior Afghan officials know this. They have always mentioned that they are technical problems, not security (...) the construction of a dam in that difficult area has its own problems. Which will certainly face the process of building and operating the dam, but it is not the honor of the Islamic Republic of Iran to commit such aggression against Afghanistan.”  Iranian uprisings of thirst  On January 19, video clips documenting the water valves of the Kamal Khan Dam circulated, prompting Iranian citizens and their officials to celebrate this "friendly" move by the newly reinstated Taliban government. Even the Iranian deputy ambassador in Kabul, Hassan Mortazavi, went on to confirm the news, saying, "The water was released after intense talks between officials from the Afghan and Iranian sides earlier that month."  However, the Afghan authorities quickly denied the news. A spokesman for the Ministry of Water and Energy in the Taliban government responded that his country had already opened the gates of the Kamal Khan Dam, "but not to send Helmand water across the border to reach Iran, but rather to irrigate agricultural land in the vicinity of the dam."  This comes at a time when the region is experiencing an unprecedented drought. The "Kamal Khan" and "Salma" dams cut off the water equivalent of 4.5 million Iranian citizens who live on the side of the Helmand and Harirud river basins. What sparked violent protests in both Khuzestan and Sistan-Baluchestan, these protests represent pressure on the Iranian government to take urgent action to resolve the ongoing crisis.  In diagnosing the Iranian water crisis, according to the journalist specialized in Iranian affairs, Laila Ali, in her interview with TRT Arabic, "Half of the water problem in Iran lies in the drought crisis experienced by many countries in the region, and its problems with neighbors in Iraq and Afghanistan regarding the sharing of river waters. and the second part due to the mismanagement of resources along past governments.  On the other hand, Laila Ali says, the recent protests over the waters in Khuzestan "witnessed a soft and calm language from the Iranian government, unlike the usual, especially because of the nature of the province, which witnessed numerous protests over unemployment, poor living conditions and discrimination by the government," in addition to "the repetition of the enemy's rhetoric." Who is behind the protests and fueling strife." All that was done was "to calm the protests through the Revolutionary Guards, who worked to transfer water tanks to Khuzestan, the province most affected by the lack of water and drought."  And the spokeswoman added, "Currently, Iran has begun to take the water crisis into consideration, especially after the Ukrainian war. For example, Khamenei said a few days ago that he is sad that Iran is importing grain, wheat and barley in huge amounts from Russia, and that work must be done on self-sufficiency in wheat, barley and others." But critics met him with the water crisis that turned agricultural land into a dry desert.  Here comes what Leila described as "mismanagement of the crisis", as she explains that the Iranian government "has been diverting rivers towards Tehran to avoid any water cuts from the capital" and in return "has pushed a number of rural areas to turn into barren areas."  And the spokeswoman concludes, "At the near level, the Iranian government can return to negotiations with the Taliban in order to open the Kamal Khan Dam again, as happened last January."


The Afghan version explains what happened, as "a vehicle belonging to the Iranian forces crossed to the Afghan side and was detained by local officials," according to what the Taliban commissioner in the "Islam Qal'at Dogaron" district told the Afghan "Tolo News" TV. This is the second time, since the Taliban's takeover of Kabul, that the two sides are engaged in border skirmishes, as the border area between Iran's Shaglik and Afghani Nimroz witnessed violent clashes for the same reason last December.

These disputes are only the tip of the iceberg of the contentious files between the two countries, the topics of which range from border problems to refugee issues, and security problems to the water issue. While the latter is the most congested, and the most threatening to break the fragile calm between the two countries, and the outbreak of a water war that may open dangerous scenarios of violence.

New old file
The Iranian-Afghan dispute over water revolves primarily around the Helmand River, which originates in the Hindu Kush Mountains in the north-east of Afghanistan, and flows into Lake Hamoun, which has entered Iranian territory, covering more than 1,300 kilometers. This river is the most important water resource for the two countries, and this is the reason for the dispute between them over the division of their shares of that water.

In 1972, the Iranian and Afghan governments concluded the Helmand Water Sharing Agreement, according to which Iran's right to a share of the river's water equivalent to 26 cubic meters of Helmand River water per second, or 850 million cubic meters annually, was recognized in exchange for the latter's supplying electricity to Afghanistan. This agreement, which lasted until 1996, when Kabul decided to build the "Kamal Khan" dam on the river's course in order to generate its electricity needs. This project will be suspended due to the war in the country, before it can be resumed in 2011.

Afghanistan completed the construction of the dam in 2014, after which the government of President Ashraf Ghani announced that it was no longer possible for Iran to obtain its share of the waters of the Helmand River due to climatic changes that affected the levels of river flow. Accusing Iran of criticizing the step of building the Kamal Khan Dam, because it removed Afghanistan from the need to import electricity from Iran, and brought it closer to achieving self-sufficiency in electrical energy.

The same accusations were repeated by Ashraf Ghani's government to Iran regarding the obstruction of the "Salma" dam, which was inaugurated on the course of the Harirud River passing from the Afghan state of Herat towards the Iranian province of Khorasan. This dam was built with an Afghan-Indian partnership, as it was supposed to produce electricity with a capacity of 46 megawatts per hour, and irrigate more than 80,000 agricultural lands.

The Iranian Consul General at the time denied these allegations, saying: "Such issues are not important to the government of Iran and most public opinion and senior Afghan officials know this. They have always mentioned that they are technical problems, not security (...) the construction of a dam in that difficult area has its own problems. Which will certainly face the process of building and operating the dam, but it is not the honor of the Islamic Republic of Iran to commit such aggression against Afghanistan.”

Iranian uprisings of thirst

On January 19, video clips documenting the water valves of the Kamal Khan Dam circulated, prompting Iranian citizens and their officials to celebrate this "friendly" move by the newly reinstated Taliban government. Even the Iranian deputy ambassador in Kabul, Hassan Mortazavi, went on to confirm the news, saying, "The water was released after intense talks between officials from the Afghan and Iranian sides earlier that month."

However, the Afghan authorities quickly denied the news. A spokesman for the Ministry of Water and Energy in the Taliban government responded that his country had already opened the gates of the Kamal Khan Dam, "but not to send Helmand water across the border to reach Iran, but rather to irrigate agricultural land in the vicinity of the dam."

This comes at a time when the region is experiencing an unprecedented drought. The "Kamal Khan" and "Salma" dams cut off the water equivalent of 4.5 million Iranian citizens who live on the side of the Helmand and Harirud river basins. What sparked violent protests in both Khuzestan and Sistan-Baluchestan, these protests represent pressure on the Iranian government to take urgent action to resolve the ongoing crisis.

In diagnosing the Iranian water crisis, according to the journalist specialized in Iranian affairs, Laila Ali, in her interview with TRT Arabic, "Half of the water problem in Iran lies in the drought crisis experienced by many countries in the region, and its problems with neighbors in Iraq and Afghanistan regarding the sharing of river waters. and the second part due to the mismanagement of resources along past governments.

On the other hand, Laila Ali says, the recent protests over the waters in Khuzestan "witnessed a soft and calm language from the Iranian government, unlike the usual, especially because of the nature of the province, which witnessed numerous protests over unemployment, poor living conditions and discrimination by the government," in addition to "the repetition of the enemy's rhetoric." Who is behind the protests and fueling strife." All that was done was "to calm the protests through the Revolutionary Guards, who worked to transfer water tanks to Khuzestan, the province most affected by the lack of water and drought."

And the spokeswoman added, "Currently, Iran has begun to take the water crisis into consideration, especially after the Ukrainian war. For example, Khamenei said a few days ago that he is sad that Iran is importing grain, wheat and barley in huge amounts from Russia, and that work must be done on self-sufficiency in wheat, barley and others." But critics met him with the water crisis that turned agricultural land into a dry desert.

Here comes what Leila described as "mismanagement of the crisis", as she explains that the Iranian government "has been diverting rivers towards Tehran to avoid any water cuts from the capital" and in return "has pushed a number of rural areas to turn into barren areas."

And the spokeswoman concludes, "At the near level, the Iranian government can return to negotiations with the Taliban in order to open the Kamal Khan Dam again, as happened last January."

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