Iran's "Cloudy" Accusations

A Cover-Up for Environmental Mismanagement

In mid-2022, Iranian authorities accused Israel and the United Arab Emirates of stealing their rain. This claim continued Iran’s long history of making wild accusations to deflect from government mismanagement. From blaming Jews for spreading homosexuality in Iran to accusing “foreign-based media” of poisoning Iranian schoolgirls, the government has been quick to point fingers at foreign enemies for domestic challenges.  

But Iran’s increasingly dire water shortages make it harder to blame others for the Iranian government’s poor water management.

Iran is considered the 4th most water-stressed country in the world. Close to 77 percent of the country’s groundwater sources are under “extreme overdraft,” meaning that Iran is drawing from these sources three times as fast as they are naturally recharged. While climate change is an important factor, the Iranian public is starting to blame government corruption and mismanagement. In July 2022, protestors took to the streets in response to the rapid drying up of a lake that was once the largest in the Middle East, chanting “Lake Urmia is dying, parliament orders its killing.”

Additionally, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp’s involvement in managing water crises has not built confidence. The IRGC is deeply involved in dam construction and water transfer schemes. Skeptics argue that the billions of dollars directed towards water projects fail to solve the country’s water woes but line officers’ pockets.

Facing pressure for its poor water management, the government made attempts to appear proactive. Just last year, authorities further invested in cloud seeding technology, announcing that Iran has become the first Middle East country to “indigenize” a cloud seeding radar. However, one Iranian academic has argued that the government still has nothing to show for 15 years of cloud seeding in ten provinces.  

With the Iranian government's efforts to manage water looking increasingly desperate, the government may have to get even more creative in passing on the blame.  

Lubna Yousef

Lubna Yousef

Former Research Associate, Middle East Program