Morale: An Avoidable Disaster In Iraq

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January 14, 2016: In December 2015 Italy announced it was sending 450 troops to help Iraq guard the Mosul Dam on the Tigris River. Aside from the fact that an Italian firm is one of the owners of the dam and its 750 MW electricity generating plant, there is a humanitarian aspect to providing the dam with more security. This is the largest dam in Iraq and because of shoddy construction during the 1980s requires constant maintenance to prevent it from failing. If the dam did come down over half a million Iraqis could die from the flood and subsequent water shortages. The wall of water created by a dam collapse would be about five meters (16 feet) high when it reached Baghdad. The power generating plant would also be lost along with the credibility of the Iraqi government, which has long acknowledged that the dam is important but rarely comes through when troops are needed for security or money is required to make the constant (and essential) repairs.

The crises began on August 3, 2014 when ISIL seized the Mosul Dam. The Kurds organized a counterattack force and despite the reluctance of the Iraqi government to supply the Kurds with ammo, weapons or much else, recaptured the dam by the 19th and have held it ever since. The Kurds had been defending the dam since the Iraqi Army ran away in early June. Losing the dam on August 3rd was not unexpected because the Kurds stretched themselves thin by trying to replace the Iraqi Army throughout northern Iraq, At the same time the Kurds were also building and defending a new fortified border to incorporate Kirkuk and nearby oilfields into the autonomous Kurdish northern Iraq. In mid-2015 the Kurds asked for American air support but were initially refused. The Americans have shipped in ammo and light weapons and some additional American trainers and advisors. Eventually the Americans came through with air support as well but the Iraqi government still held back on supplies for the Kurdish defenders and money to make all the repairs. The shoddy way the dam was built requires the constant repairs or else the dams will crumble and collapse. Iraq says it cannot spend a lot of money on repairs because the poor security around the damn makes it difficult to get the needed workers and materials to the site. But Iraq has been warned by foreign and Iraqi engineers that if the repairs are not made an avoidable disaster will follow.

 


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