Saturday, May 06, 2023

The Baghdad International Water Conference

Today, Baghdad hosted the International Water Conference.  Let's note some Tweets.

So I'm seeing Iraq's prime minister, foreign officials, a WHO rep, the United Nations, etc.  Why isn't this being covered by the US press?

Lack of interest in Iraq?  Lack of interest in climate change?  Or both.

Sinan Mahmoud (THE NATIONAL) reports:

Iraq on Saturday called for emergency assistance from the international community to help restore the flow of water in the country's two main rivers.

Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani made the plea for “urgent international intervention” at the start of the two-day Baghdad International Water conference.

“The issue of water has become a sensitive one not only in Iraq but in all countries,” Mr Al Sudani said.

Water levels in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which account for more than 90 per cent of Iraq's freshwater reserves, have declined significantly over the years, partly as a result of the construction of dams and diversion of water upstream in Turkey and Iran.

The Prime Minister warned that a shortage of water compounded by climate change would have a substantial impact on Iraq's economic development and environment, with wider ramifications for regional stability.

KURDISTAN 24 adds:

The KRG Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, Begard Dlshad, is heading the delegation to present the Region’s perspective on water issues such as drought, that has negatively impacted Iraq in recent years, the minister told Kurdistan 24.

The United Nations is also participating in the conference along with representatives of neighboring countries, including Iran and Turkey.

“The KRG’s dam construction project aims to reduce the reliance on water flow from neighboring countries,” the minister told Kurdistan 24 and added that 30 percent of Iraq’s water reserves are in the Kurdish region.

The 45-year-old Begard Dlshad Shukralla has her degree in biology and has previously held the following posts: 2011 to 2013 head of the PUK's Office for Monitoring and Follow Up, 2013 to 2017 MP in the Kurdistan Parliament and, in 2017, Secretary of the Kurdistan Parliament.


Julian Bechocha (RUDAW) reports:                                                                             

Iraq is among the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including water and food insecurity, according to the United Nations. It is facing a severe water shortage because of reduced precipitation and higher temperatures, and waste and mismanagement. The crisis is worsened by dams upstream in Turkey and Iran that have led to a significant decrease in the volume of water entering the country. 

A visit by Sudani to Turkey in March saw measurable success after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to double the water releases in the Tigris River for a period of one month, saying the decision was made “in order to relieve Iraq’s distress.”

“The government has set the water file as one of its priorities, and has taken many policies. And it was necessary to identify the problems with upstream countries so our meetings with the countries emphasized the need to give the full share of water,” Sudani said. 

During the conference, Sudani also pleaded for “the efforts of all friends” of the international community to “urgently” assist Iraq counter water insecurity.

In one of the latest stark warnings of the threats a heating climate poses to Iraq, a report by the Ministry of Water Resources late last year predicted that unless urgent action is taken to combat declining water levels, Iraq’s two main rivers will be entirely dry by 2040. 

The Special Representative to the United Nations Secretary General spoke at the conference.  Here's what Ghulam Isaczai stated:

Distinguished guests, good morning.

Today, I have the honor of speaking at the 3rd Baghdad International Water Conference, at the invitation of H.E. Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, Prime Minister of Iraq, and H.E. Aoun Diab, Minister of Water Resources.

I would like to begin by highlighting some positive developments related to the water agenda that have taken place in recent months, thanks to the joint efforts of the Government of Iraq and the United Nations.

Specifically, I would like to congratulate Iraq for being the pioneer in the region to accede to the UN Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes. This accession will open new opportunities to enhance transboundary water cooperation, while strengthening national water policies and practices, and enhancing intersectoral cooperation and stakeholder participation.

From our side at the United Nations, we have established a Water Task Force comprising water experts from different international organizations and think tanks to provide technical assistance and advice to the Government of Iraq on water issues. Our advocacy and engagement on water challenges in Iraq have increased significantly, reflecting our commitment to supporting Iraq in addressing its looming water crisis.

At the national level, there is a need to:

  • Initiate a national dialogue on water and around SDG6 on Clean Water and Sanitation leading to development of a national Water Roadmap.
  • Make water resources management as a national priority, while allocating sufficient funds towards research, analysis, innovation, and transfer of efficient technologies for integrated water resources management.
  • Invest in national capacity building, water infrastructure including dams, irrigation systems, and wastewater treatment plants, to maximize water usage.
  • Promote water conservation measures: such as repairing leaky pipes, introduce water-saving technologies, and enforce regulations on water usage.
  • Revive traditional Rainwater harvesting practices such as building catchment systems, to collect and store rainwater for future use.
  • Establish water monitoring systems for river and ground water, and take regulatory, technological, and behavioral measures to prevent water pollution, while also investing in urban water recycling.
  • Combat desertification through integrated and adaptive land, water, and forest management.
  • Launch education and awareness campaigns to promote responsible water usage and conservation.

At the regional level there is a need to:

  • Strengthen regional cooperation to develop equitable and eco-friendly water use policies, while developing a negotiated strategy encouraging riparian countries to sign river-basin-management agreements based on a win-win approach.
  • Conduct regional water assessment of the economic, environmental, regional integration and political benefits costs of non-cooperation on water resources.
  • Actively leverage relevant global legal instruments on transboundary water.

To effectively address Iraq’s water challenges, we must work jointly and transparently. The cross-cutting nature of water means that challenges must be addressed through a whole of government and whole of society approach, and approach that is inclusive and engages the Iraqi people, that is those most directly affected by the water situation.  

On our side at the United Nations, we will continue to actively engage with our government counterparts, through the Water Task Force and the Inter-agency working group on climate and environment.

Let me close by saying that all technical solutions to the water problems are within our reach; what we need is effective policies, investments, incentive mechanisms, regulations, and enforcement actions.

The United Nations stands ready to support. I wish you all a fruitful conference.

Thank you.


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You Thought The Cold War Was Good For Weapons? You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet.


You Thought The Cold War Was Good For Weapons? You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet.

The Military Industrial Complex On Taxpayer-Funded Steroids

[Editorial note…sort of a repeatI continue to be tied down with my new big global project on Just Transition for workers (You can subscribe to that newsletter at a special rate) so just having very little time to write here. I’ve enabled the paid subscription option so you can be part of keeping the posts coming! The rent must be paid!]

You might be in favor of an eye-popping, gargantuan military budget—or you might want the Pentagon to be chopped down to at least the level promised (and never realized) by a post-Cold War peacetime “dividend”.

But, at least, people need to know the facts. And be aware of what is happening.

To pay attention so we can have a rationale, open debate, and not simply stumble into an arms race that is ramping up every day.

This is not a secret: There is a massive—and, from my point of view, ominous and dangerous—expansion of the Pentagon. I’m re-upping this view from something I wrote a year ago:

SCOOP! Putin Is A Paid Lobbyist For Big U.S. Defense Contractors.

MAY 12, 2022
SCOOP! Putin Is A Paid Lobbyist For Big U.S. Defense Contractors.

LONG TAKE Ok, so, I’m kidding. After all, Vlad is already a billionaire, having siphoned off a nice hunk of Russia’s national treasure through his secret deals with his oligarchs (in the U.S., oligarchs like Jeff Bezos have it much easier—they just buy off politicians and use the tax code to plunder the country). Putin doesn’t need a few million bucks ex…

Read full story

The different pieces of a narrative are right in front of us, and it’s not hard to weave together a coherent big picture—but the traditional media has no interest in drilling down on or giving us a take on the big picture and, in fact, as we’ll see, the traditional media plays a central role in fueling the profits of the defense industry by promoting the “national security threats”.

The first observation: It would me a mistake to think the war in Ukraine is the only driver behind this. It’s quite useful, of course, to have a high-minded mission—in this case, saving Ukraine and Western “democracy”. I’m not going to spend a lot of time here, today, on the pro-con arguments over supporting Ukraine other than to note: one can simultaneously grasp what an utter pig Putin is (war-crime orders to relentlessly bomb civilian targets is, shall I say, quite Kissingeresque) AND roll ones eyes about the NATO call-to-arms in a self-described mission to preserve “democracy”.

The military build-up actually has its roots three decades ago and intensified long before the war in Ukraine. Essentially, since the fall of the Soviet Union, the defense industry has been groping around for the next “Evil Empire” to justify arms build-ups. Iraq didn’t quite fit the bill, either in 1991 or 2002 because, not withstanding the various bi-partisan propaganda and the thirst to control oil, Iraq was hardly a serious military threat (and, in fact, was an ally when it was convenient…).

The relentlessness of arms manufacturers can be seen through one lens: how it has bought of Congress, year after year, with political contributions. Again, not per se a surprise. But, relevant to the picture today.

Courtesy of Open Secrets, let’s look at two aspects of the legal corrupt business of lobbying. First, you can see a steadily rising flow of money dating back to 1990, and the particular spike around the 2020 presidential election—there was a real sense that, for military appropriations, it was crucial to be on the winning side:

And, when we think of “winning side”, there is no ideology other than dollars and cents. This is very much bi-partisan, with a slight but not overwhelming Republican bent; in fact, in certain periods when Democrats controlled the White House and the Congress (2008 and 2010) cycles, the money favored (slightly) Democrats:

You will note, now, in the nice fancy chart below courtesy of the Financial Times a few interesting trends (hence, I’m sorry to say, the insistence in incorrectly spelling “defence” because they are still smarting I guess over 1776. Whatever)


First, the dominance of the Big Five plus large defense contractors goes back way before the Ukraine War and is precisely a direct payoff for the money shelled out buying Congress—they certainly got their money’s worth.

Second, the majority of money spent for defense contractors—54 percent—in 2021 are funds Congress would have appropriated before the Ukraine war.

Third, pulling out the Big Five from the rest, you can see how five companies alone—Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Ratheon, General Dynamics and Boeing—rule the roost.

To be sure, the Ukraine war has relevance in the opportunity being seized by the Big Five. Let’s start with the stock market, again, courtesy of the Financial Times. Of note here are the share price of the Big Five Defence contractors (I kind of feel obligated to kowtow to the spelling, now and again, seeing as I’m using the FT’s charts):

Four of the five share prices of the “Big Five” rose after Russia’s invasion and did better than the S&P 500 since then; the share price of Boeing, whose commercial side business was taking hits partly because of the COVID-era airline industry issues, was floated up as well.

Now, let’s get a small taste of the almost daily drum beat of slavish promotion by media outlets of the need to expand the weapons industry.

A note first: generally speaking, “national security” or “Pentagon” reporters are some of the worst journalists. They function as virtually uncritical mouthpieces for the defense industry. They stand in front of the Pentagon seal and “report” the press releases from the Pentagon with nary a criticism. And they spew a stream of stories from their “national security sources”—it’s access journalism at its worst, with horrific consequences for the planet, because what is more valuable as a coin-of-the-realm “get” than a story from a “highly placed Pentagon source” or, even better, “a CIA source”. The worse part of this is: they believe it all.

Here you go:

Per the FT:

Lockheed would be willing to invest more in the expansion of capacity and purchasing materials with long lead times, says St John, “when we have a clear understanding of what the demand signal is going to be for some of these systems.”

There are currently no multi-year purchase contracts for munitions, unlike ships and aircraft, that “would incentivise [manufacturers] to make the investments to increase the capacity”, says Mark Cancian, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former Pentagon budget strategist.

On the contrary, warns Northrop Grumman chief executive Kathy Warden, “inconsistent demand signal will result in production lines being shut down.”

In September, the Pentagon’s LaPlante said he was considering putting high-priority weapons and ammunition on two- to five-year contracts to replenish US stockpiles and supply Ukraine.

The government must put its money where its mouth is, says an industry source. Defence company executives would “be driven out of here by our shareholders” if they made decisions only based on Pentagon meetings and what they read in the news. “The way that the government needs to communicate [increased demand] is via contracts,” they say.

Or the push to rearm:

As a result of such efforts, says Mr Bush, production of Stinger shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles will increase six-fold (from very low levels); that of Javelins (anti-tank weapons that helped to halt the Russians’ initial offensive) will double; ditto for HIMARS launchers, which have also proved their effectiveness in Ukraine, destroying arms dumps, command posts and barracks far behind the front lines.

Output of 155mm shells will triple and possibly increase six-fold, to over 1m a year, as the Pentagon sets up another production line in Texas and issues contracts to a firm in Canada. But much of the extra capacity will not be available until 2024 or even 2028. “I think the American economy is capable, and knows how to do this,” declares Mr Bush. “It’s simply a matter of time. It’s not a new thing. Industrial mobilisation in world war two and the Korean war also took time.”

A similar process is under way in Europe. Armin Papperger, boss of Germany’s Rheinmetall, says his firm can quickly lift production from 70,000 to 450,000 shells a year or more, having recently agreed to buy Expal Systems, a Spanish ammunition producer. Rheinmetall is also setting up a new munitions plant in Hungary. CSG, a Czech arms manufacturer that produced 100,000 shells last year, is hoping to boost its output to 150,000 this year. A Norwegian firm, Nammo, could also increase production. Former Warsaw Pact countries are even toying with reopening factories to make 152mm munitions, so Ukraine can keep using its Soviet artillery.

The sky is falling! From across the pond, it’s an explosives shortage:

Europe’s push to make arms for Ukraine has been hobbled by a shortage of explosives, which industry insiders fear will delay efforts to boost shell production by as much as three years. Scarce supplies of gunpowder, plastic explosives and TNT have left industry unable to rapidly meet expected EU orders for Ukraine, regardless of how much money is thrown at the problem, according to officials and producers. The supply chain constraints underline how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has badly exposed Europe’s inadequate arms stocks and weak domestic production capacity, run down by decades of under-investment. “The fundamental problem is that the European defence industry is not in good shape for large-scale war production,” said one German official.

Here, you get shells are needed!

More than a year after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, U.S. plans to increase production of key munitions have fallen short due to shortages of chips, machinery and skilled workers. 

Arms makers have added factory shifts, ordered new equipment and streamlined supply chains to boost output of Javelin antitank missiles, artillery shells, guided rockets and much more, which Ukrainian forces are firing by the thousands at the Russian invaders.

Years of stop-start Pentagon funding for munitions led companies to close production lines or quit the industry, while output of many components and raw materials moved overseas. Defense Department chiefs estimate the decline will take five or six years to reverse.

“We want to get the fragility out of the system, so if this ever happens again, it’s six months instead of three years to get a meaningful improvement in capacity,” said Jim Taiclet, chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin Corp.


“We have more than doubled the capacity with the investments we’ve laid in or plan to make,” Northrop Grumman Corp. CEO Kathy Warden said this week. “For the government to go even further than that, we are suggesting that we can support that, but would look for government funding to complement it.”

To justify all this, you can’t just rely on shallow journalists. The defense industry needs what policymakers would view as “independent” intellectual justification. So, it turns to—and helps fund—the consistent voices for a global arms race. We get, for example, “Empty Bins in a Wartime Environment: The Challenge to the U.S. Defense Industrial Base” from the reliable voice for a global superpower, the Center for Strategic and International Studies:

The U.S. defense industrial base is not adequately prepared for the international security environment that now exists. In a major regional conflict—such as a war with China in the Taiwan Strait—the U.S. use of munitions would likely exceed the current stockpiles of the U.S. Department of Defense. According to the results of a series of CSIS war games, the United States would likely run out of some munitions—such as long-range, precision-guided munitions—in less than one week in a Taiwan Strait conflict. The war in Ukraine has also exposed serious deficiencies in the U.S. defense industrial base and serves as a stark reminder that a protracted conflict is likely to be an industrial war that requires a defense industry able to manufacture enough munitions, weapons systems, and matériel to replace depleted stockpiles.

As timelines for a possible conflict in Asia shrink, the goal should be to support the production capacity required to enable the United States and its allies and partners to deter and, if deterrence fails, fight and win at least one major theater war—if not two. “Just in time” and lean manufacturing operations must be balanced with carrying added capacity. The U.S. Department of Defense, in coordination with Congress, should develop a plan now that involves taking steps to streamline and improve production, acquisitions, replenishment, Foreign Military Sales, ITAR, and other policies and procedures. A revitalization of the defense industrial base will not happen overnight for the United States or its allies and partners. It is time to prepare for the era of competition that now exists.

I hone in on this particular drivel above—you can find reams of similar papers and reports, all written with a very somber-sounding “expertise”—because it allows us to pivot back away from the Ukraine war.

Because, as I noted two years ago in this newsletter, there has been a much broader “Red Scare” drum beat that has taken hold throughout the political-media-business elites. Here is my observation from two years ago:

Working Life Newsletter
The New "Red Scare": Big Business Cashes In
LONG TAKE These days, you can’t go through a single day without reading some traditional media new tidbit that fans the flames of the new “Red Scare” menace: China. One day it’s the economic competition from China. The next day it’s the military threat China poses. And, then, we have the most recent kerfuffle pinning the eruption of COVID-19 on an escape…
Read more


In the way the Soviet Union justified the expenditure of trillions of dollars over almost half a century, China is the new “golden calf” for the defense industry. To be clear, you can hold on to two thoughts at the same time: China is an extremely repressive, authoritarian regime AND that this new “Red Scare” rubbish has nothing to do with some great political ideological communism-versus-capitalism battle since China has been a favorite industrial production “come-use-our-slave-labor” destination for every company from Wal-Mart to Nike to Ivanka Trump’s clothing line.

It’s all about the Benjamins.

That helps us see how the lavishing of tax payer money on the war machine also bleeds very much into the “industrial” arena, with the broader new “Red Scare” used as a justification. Specifically, as an example, the recent $52 billion handout to the semiconductor industry. This industry could not exist without a military component (aside: people made fun of Al Gore when he said he had helped invent the Internet but, in fact, it was during his time as vice president that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a research and development agency of the United States Department of Defense, took major steps in furthering the infrastructure called ARPANET the first packet-switched computer network). Missiles and virtually every piece of military hardware run on microchips.

But, the leading argument for handing $52 billion to a very profitable industry had to be gussied up with some greater national security component so, presto, the “Red Scare”—which also helped siphon $2 billion in a direct allocation to the Pentagon for microelectronics projects.

The next frontier being engaged in this arena is, and will be, artificial intelligence.

I’ll wrap this up here. Sound the alarm.

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