Why Iraq Is So Desperate to Retake Mosul Dam from ISIS


When Saddam Hussein built the Mosul dam three decades ago it was meant to serve as a symbol of the strength of Iraq and his leadership. He was following a tradition of big, but often ill-considered infrastructure projects in some Middle East dictatorships that seem more like a muscle-flex by a country’s leader than a project for the people.

Now that dam—the country’s biggest, holding back 11 billion cubic meters of water and producing over 1000 megawatts of electricity—is a symbol of the strength and military prowess for the Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria (ISIS), which took control of the structure on Aug. 7.

“We told the Iraqi government a month ago that we needed to protect this strategic structure,” said Shirouk al-Abayachi, a member of the Iraq parliament for the Civil Democratic Alliance, and previously an adviser to the Ministry of Water Resources. “Any group manipulating this…

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