Department of Defense military planners are considering operational strategies in response to possible flooding by Iraqi military forces. If the Iraqi military releases water into the Tigris River from upstream reservoirs, extensive flooding between Baghdad and Al Kut could occur. Thousands of Iraqis could be displaced, adding to congestion on roads and requiring extensive humanitarian support.
Despite Saddam Hussein’s claims to the contrary, historical precedence indicates Iraqi military strategies include the release of water as a viable option for deterring enemy forces. For example, during the Iran-Iraq war, the Iraqi military created water obstacles to deter Iranian advances.
Iraq’s strategy could include releasing a small amount of water from major dams and canals to interrupt maneuvering units. Iraq also could cause catastrophic flooding of portions of the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys, either by releasing large amounts of water from dams or by destroying them. The latter could cause major humanitarian crises in parts of Iraq, though Baghdad would experience minimal damage.
Conditions in certain portions of Southern Iraq will get worse as the rainy season and snow melt-off in the north proceed during March and April. Areas currently flooded may be impassible for four to six weeks, even without additional water. The Hussein regime could incorporate the flooding into defensive preparations to slow the advance of coalition forces. This tactic could force coalition units or displaced persons through flooded areas.
The Al Qadisiyah Dam and its Hadiyha Reservoir are the primary water sources for possible strategic flooding. The strategic release of water from five reservoirs-Saddam, Dokan, Al Azim, Darbandikhan and the Diyala-could be initiated to increase the flow rate of the Tigris. Water levels will likely rise in these reservoirs as the rainy season continues.