Prof. Arnon Karnieli
The Remote Sensing Laboratory, Jacob Blaustein
Institutes for Desert Research, Ben Gurion UniversityWere Climate Change and Droughts Really the TriggerBehind the Syrian Civil War in 2011?Zoom meeting
Meeting ID: 830 2884 2427
האם שינויי אקלים ובצורות היו הגורם לפרוץ מלחמת האזרחים בסוריה בשנת 2011?
Were Climate Change and Droughts Really the Trigger Behind the Syrian Civil War in 2011?
The Remote Sensing Laboratory, Institutes for Desert Research, Ben Gurion University
The role of unsustainable resource management in initiating international conflicts is well
documented. The Syrian Civil War, since March 2011, offers such a case. The prevailing
opinion links the unrest with sequential droughts occurring between 2007-2010. Our
research, however, reveals that the winter-rainfed agriculture conditions before 2011, as
detected by satellite-derived vegetation indices, were similar and even better for Syrian
farmers than those of the Turkish crops across the border. Concurrently, summer-irrigated
crops, heavily dependent on Euphrates water originating from Turkey, notably declined in
Syria while flourishing in Turkey. These findings are firmly supported by other
independent and validated datasets including long-term cross-border discharge, water level
in in Syrian and Turkish reservoirs, and transborder groundwater flow. We conclude that
the Turkish policy of unilaterally diverting the Euphrates water was the main reason for
agriculture collapse and subsequent instability in Syria in 2011. The obvious inference is
that while prolonged drought exacerbated conditions, unsustainable anthropogenic water
management in Turkey was the proximate cause behind the Syrian uprising.