ISIS' Weapon of Mass Destruction: Water

ISIS’ Weapon of Mass Destruction: Water

Report about the Tabqa Dam and the battle to retake Raqqa from the ISIS stranglehold.

Monday June 7th, 1222 ZULU +1

As the Kurdish and Iraqi offensive towards Mosul is ongoing and ISIS is losing its foot hold in Fallujah, quickly falling back to escape advancing Iraqi troops, the Tabqa Dam (or al-Thawra), is back in the news. Some might remember that it made headlines earlier this year while ISIS held onto the crumbling Mosul Dam on the Tigris River, about 50km north of Mosul, Iraq. The international community warned of structural damage and neglect in maintenance of the dam, and that its collapse would send a wall of 11 billion cubic meters of water crashing toward Iraq’s second biggest city. An immediate response was called upon.

ISIS has threatened to blow the Tabqa Dam

The Tabqa Dam, in the Ar-Raqqah province of Syria, fell to the Free Syrian Army affiliated Uwais al-Qarni Brigade on 11 February 2013, along with the village of Al Thawrah near the dam. A few months later a temporary ceasefire agreement was negotiated allowing the Syrian Government to send engineering crews to repair the dam to avoid further damage. Since then the Free Syrian Army has all but disintegrated in anything but name only, and the Uwais al-Qarni Brigade has largely joined forces, or been pushed aside, by ISIS militia.

Syria Map - Tabqa Dam

The Tabqa Dam, roughly three miles long and climbing up to 200 feet, is a mere 25 miles from the currently contested battlegrounds of Raqa’a, and the dam has become a stronghold for ISIS in the region. ISIS has reportedly been using it as a prison and as a base of operations that neither the Russian nor Syrian government is willing to attack by air out of fear it would devastate the region, possibly flooding the area and killing tens of thousands. And that is exactly the gambit ISIS is using it for.

As ISIS has been forced to retreat on multiple fronts, their hold on the dam is stronger than ever, and the threat is not only real but outspoken. “Attack the dam, and we will destroy it,” thus flooding and killing all in the valley.

By controlling the dam, ISIS controls the majority of water supplies in the area as well, which in turn means they can control farmers, villages, and the overall progression of the war, unless their oppositions logistics is up to the task.

An unnamed Israeli IDF colonel once said in regards to the Sinai campaign during the 6 Day War, “Napoleon is known to have said that an Army marches on its stomach; that may be true for Europe – but here in the Middle East an army marches on its water. The Egyptians (and the others) did not see that – and so our soldiers were always prepared even when outnumbered.” In fact, ISIS is now using the dam as a primitive form of a weapon of mass destruction. By their actions, not only can ISIS ensure a comfortable level of imposed control on civilians, they can leverage the very destruction of these civilians if the war continues to turn against them.

John Sjoholm, Lima Charlie News

John Sjoholm is Lima Charlie’s Middle East Bureau Chief, and founder of the consulting organization Erudite Group. He is a seasoned Middle East connoisseur, with a past in the Swedish Army’s Special Forces branch and the Security Contracting industry. He studied religion and languages in Sana’a, Yemen, and Cairo, Egypt. He lived and operated extensively in the Middle East between 2005-2012 as part of regional stabilizing projects, and currently resides in Jordan. Follow John on Twitter @JohnSjoholmLC

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Reports as of SUNDAY 1520 ZULU+1 state that ‪#‎Syrian Armed Forces (‪#‎SAA) along with ‪#‎Russian Special Forces have reached and encircled the‪#‎Tabqa military airport, which is currently under control by ‪#‎ISIS. Earlier today the coalition ground units captured the ‪#‎Sfaiyah gas fields from #ISIS and that they have dispatched units to begin to retake the #Tabqadam some 8km away from the Airbase.

The Tabqa Airbase and Airfield has been under near constant attack by Syrian (‪#‎SAF) and Russian Air Force for the past two days, with the Russian ground and air troops “pounding” the base with rockets according to accounts. Two days ago, the #SAF attacked a “massive” #ISIS convoys coming to the Airbase with men and resupplies, and the Syrian Government reports that there were hundreds of ISIS fighters killed in the air to ground attack.