Iran's Salami Threatens "Full War" Amid Escalating Water Crises
Crackdown in Khuzestan
In Iran's petroleum-laden province of Khuzestan, a simmering conflict looms as water scarcity intensifies. The Revolutionary Guard commander, Hossein Salami, during his recent visit to the parched region, issued a formidable warning of "full war" against any opposition.
"We will counter with full force against those who dare to bear arms against us. We will crush any unrest that threatens national safety. Concurrently, it is our duty to support those who are vulnerable and inadvertently marching towards peril," voicing his standpoint at a gathering with local military and civil authorities last Thursday.
The Revolutionary Guard leader's cautionary words serve as a poignant reminder of the volatility that could erupt, reminiscent of the protests that rocked the sweltering region in July 2021.
Salami portrayed Khuzestan, a province flourishing with oil, as a critical battleground where "the intricate strategies of adversaries coalesce". He detailed these schemes as "secessionism, societal fragmentation, manipulating public mindset in favor of the enemy, and sanctions," adding that such maneuvers should be curtailed in the province.
Salami accentuated the imperative to protect the younger generation, stating, "We must safeguard our children from the enemy's flames," stressing the Revolutionary Guard's responsibility to shield everyone, irrespective of their religious or revolutionary stances, from the colossal machinations of the enemy and to "liberate the youth from the enemy's cultural warfare."
An anonymous Iranian political analyst, speaking to Iran International, noted:
"Salami has essentially reiterated his customary threats while promising to salvage those inadvertently tainted by the enemy. His utterances in Khuzestan, given the current circumstances, and his emphasis that 'the war is not over in Khuzestan,' harking back to the Iran-Iraq War three decades ago, are significant."
"Despite the escalating water crisis, no proactive measures have been implemented, mirroring similar inaction across the country. Additionally, the socioeconomic fabric has worsened over the past two years due to President Ebrahim Raisi's policies, which had pledged swift improvement. Consequently, the outbreak of new protests is an ever-present possibility," Salamiz continued, as he was quoted by media reports.
Recently, water shortages have gripped parts of Ahvaz, Khuzestan's capital, and various other areas within the province. Two years ago, thousands took to the streets to protest similar conditions in Khuzestan, triggering solidarity rallies in neighboring provinces such as Chahar Mahal va Bakhtiari, Esfahan, Lorestan, and Bushehr, and even as far away as Tabriz, the capital of East Azerbaijan Province.
The government responded with a heavy-handed crackdown on the protests, transforming them into broader anti-government unrest that persisted for almost two weeks. This led to the detention of hundreds, and the death of at least ten protesters at the hands of security forces across Khuzestan and adjacent provinces.
Critics attribute the province's water scarcity to the construction of numerous dams on Khuzestan's fertile plains and the diversion of water to other regions, like Esfahan Province, to cater to water-intensive industries such as steel.
Water scarcity has been a recurrent theme during President Raisi's recent tours of Sistan-Baluchestan, Kerman, and Khuzestan provinces, where drought conditions have crippled many towns and villages. Khuzestan, home to a diverse mix of Arabs, Lurs, Persians, and Bakhtiari tribes, and the site of significant battles during the Iran-Iraq War, faces stark challenges as it navigates its water crisis in a climate that often sees temperatures north of 50°C.