The Covid crisis has highlighted the need to relocate what is essential, such as food and drug production. In the Middle East, it is clear that the supply of basic foodstuffs depends heavily, and increasingly so, on international markets, as arable land and water resources are becoming increasingly scarce.
The dreaded health disaster has not occurred in the Middle East, as in the Maghreb countries or in Africa, even if there is no indication that the coronavirus crisis is about to end and that the situation may still change, especially with the second wave that is once again raging in the region.
The consequences of the coronavirus pandemic differ from one region of the world to another. They are most keenly felt in conflict areas where public healthcare systems have collapsed or are severely compromised. The greatest risk is that existing tensions and conflicts, such as those in the Middle East, might be heightened. The stability of this region, that stretches from the Persian Gulf to the Maghreb, is essential for economic and security balance in the world.
More than ever, water becomes an issue of power, political stability in the Middle East. This situation of sometimes exacerbated tensions is the result of three major changes. The first change concerns the delineation of borders, which is the result of secret negotiations between the French and the English authorities during the Sykes-Picots Agreement of 16 May 1916, at the time of the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire, described by Tsar Nicholas I as “an old sick man, seriously ill, fallen into disrepair”.
In the Middle East, water has always been seen as a scarce and sacred resource. It is present in Sumerian and Akkadian myths. And the symbolism of water nourished the belief systems of the Hebrews and Arabs. Water is at the origin of the foundation of great hydraulic civilizations, which are water civilizations, either due to their control of this rare resource in a desert environment, like the one of the Nabataeans, or due to the capacity to mobilize this same resource, but in abundance, by the populations of the Fertile Crescent.