Hydro-politics of the Nile Basin: The Zionist Factor and the Arab Spring, Middle East: Nile waters to Israel for settlement of Conflict.

By: Ahmed Alhaj (Site Admin)

Khartoum, (sudanow.info.sd) - The Ministers of water from Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia were scheduled to meet in Addis Ababa in March for more talks over the controversial dam project Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, according to Sudan’s official news agency (SUNA).

The three party meeting will discuss Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the future of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), which is led by Ethiopia aiming to distribute the Nile’s water more equitably among all the countries in the Nile Basin.

However, it is not yet certain that this development would resolve the dispute over the geo-political impacts over the Nile waters by restoring the environment of cooperation among the River Nile ripariancountries or would it deepen the conflict over the use of the Nile waters amid growing regional international political concerns.

The first part, of this essay reviewed the issue of the Nile waters, and attempted to briefly draw the outlines of the contention over the dam project, which stirred concerns in Egypt and Sudan and their response to the Ethiopian dam project.

The second part assessed the prospects of the ‘Best Scenario’ of a possible understanding between the three countries leading to resolving their contentions and bringing about an environment conducive to the good management of the Nile waters for the common benefit of the three countries.

This third part examines the ‘Worst Scenario’ of the possibility of an international involvement, particularly what some of them see as Zionist agenda, in the affairs of the Nile waters and the implications of such involvement and the threat it poses. 

After Ethiopia launched the construction of the 4.8 billion dollar project last year, Khartoum and Cairo did not show delight over the construction of the Dam which some experts see as leading to reduction of Nile water flow into the two countries.

After series of recent discussions, the three governments agreed to establish a tripartite technical committee to assess the impact of the project, formerly known as the Millennium Dam.

Ethiopia insists the construction of the dam will not harm Egypt or Sudan, arguing that it benefits them by regulating the water flow into their own dams thus controlling the possibility of flash flood risks. Egypt and Sudan will also be able to import green energy produced by the dam, Ethiopia argues.

The aim of the three party-technical team is to create transparency and demonstrate to Sudan and Egypt that the construction of the dam will no impact on their water share.

Last February the tripartite panel began assessing the possible effects of the hydroelectric project and is expected to submit its assessment recommendations to the governments of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia in six to nine months time.

Notwithstanding the positive step aiming at restoring understanding and fostering cooperation among the three riparian countries, a step,  which was lauded by the Nile Basin Discourse, a civil society network within the Nile Basin region, as paving the way for turning a new page in relations between the three countries to settle their long-standing dispute over the Nile’s water, fears about a conflict still loams around , recalling that Egypt and Sudan have declined to sign a new 2010 Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) that would give all upstream states equal access to the resources of the river.

The signing of the Cooperative Framework Agreement in 2010 by five Nile Basins states is a very interesting development, as the revised agreement, signed by Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, seeks to allow irrigation and hydroelectric projects to go ahead without downstream countries’ consent.

This development, despite repeated assertions by Ethiopia that its proposed project, according to the provisions of this framework, would have no significant harm on Egypt interests in the Nile waters, however Cairo continues to prefer a high degree of control over the Nile.

In fact the CFA left a legacy for potential conflict between Egypt and Sudan, on one side, and Ethiopia and the seven other riparian countries on the other. Experts say it cannot resolve the legal issues concerning allocation of Nile water. Legal rights to water in many river basins, including the Nile, are politically controversial, legally obscure, and emotionally volatile. In the case of the Nile, there is an inherent incompatibility between the "equitable share" arguments of an upstream riparian like Ethiopia and the "historic needs," "established rights," and "no significant harm" arguments of a downstream riparian like Egypt. Sudan finds itself in the middle of this debate because it is a downstream riparian of Ethiopia and an upstream riparian of Egypt.

Following the signing of the CFA and Ethiopia declaration of its Dam, project the two countries traded serious warnings over preserving their alleged legal rights. As early as 1980, the late Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat stated that: "If Ethiopia takes any action to block our right to the Nile waters; there will be no alternative for us but to use force”.

The former Egyptian defense minister reiterated in 1991 Egypt's readiness to use force, if necessary, to protect its control of the Nile. Ethiopia's Minister of Water Resources announced in 1997 at a conference in Addis Ababa on the Nile River Basin Action Plan that "as a source and major contribution of the Nile waters, Ethiopia has the right to have an equitable share of the Nile waters and reserves its rights to make use of its waters." Ethiopia's Foreign Minister stated in 1998 that "there is no earthly force that can stop Ethiopia from benefiting from the Nile." Former Egyptian Irrigation Minister announced, in 2004 in advance of a meeting with other riparians, that the talks must not "touch Egypt's historical rights" to Nile water. Rather, riparian states should focus on ways to recover water that is being wasted.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi warned in 2005 that "if Egypt were to plan to stop Ethiopia from utilizing the Nile water it would have to occupy Ethiopia and no country on earth has done that in the past." (Italy, of course, partially did just that from 1936-41. Egypt is in no position today, however, to occupy Ethiopia although it could inflict considerable damage by air.) Again, the former Egyptian Foreign Minister, in response to demands by upstream riparians to review the Nile treaties, commented in 2005 that Egypt will not give up its share of Nile water. Former Egyptian Foreign Minister and UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali told the BBC in 2005 that military confrontation between the countries of the Nile Basin was almost inevitable unless they could agree to share water equitably. He concluded that "the next war among countries will not be for oil or territorial borders, but only for the problem of water."

Prospects for a Water War

There is one school of thought that argues there has never been a major conflict over access to fresh water. Consequently, there is no reason to bet that war over water in the Nile Basin, would occur. Others, this author included, are not as sure, particularly as populations increase and the demand for water exceeds supply.

Lester Brown, founder of World watch Institute, argues that water scarcity is the "single biggest threat to global food security," adding there is little water left when the Nile reaches the Mediterranean. International conflict expert Thomas Homer-Dixon has suggested that conflict is most probable when a downstream riparian is highly dependent on river water and is militarily and economically strong in comparison to upstream riparians. This is precisely the case with Egypt. It depends on the Nile and is far stronger militarily, politically, and economically than Sudan or Ethiopia.


The Zionist Factor

Egyptian generals claim that Israel is helping upstream nations by encouraging their thirst for water and by financing the construction of four hydroelectric projects in Ethiopia alone.

On the other hand, war proponents used to say if upstream countries like Ethiopia are afraid of a war with Egypt because of its military might, they can easily enlist the help of Israel.

This is an indication of a potential proxy war over the Nile water in the future, despite current conducive climate for a negotiated settlement over the outstanding issues of water between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan through the tripartite panel scheduled to meet In March 2012.

One may ask how could Israel fits in a such a scenario of a proxy war over the Nile water; Fahmi Howeidi, wrote in Al-Khaleej Times, January 14, 2011 that  “Zionists realized that minorities in the Arab world represent a natural ally to their state of Israel and so they planned to build bridges with them. Zionist representatives communicated with the Kurds in Iraq, the people in southern Sudan, the Maronites in Lebanon, Kurds in Syria, and the Copts in Egypt; Zionism adopted the principle of divide and conquer, and saw that the most effective way to fragment the Arab world was to create secessionist movements within it,”. Israeli Foreign Minister’s recently deferred plan to visit South Sudan and other eastern African states may be understood in this context indicating Israeli moves were; to utilize the growing rift among the Nile Basin countries particularly between Egypt and Sudan from one side and Ethiopia on the other side, over the water shares, and promising African upstream countries support to encourage them to go ahead with their policy articulated through the CFA, a development strongly protested by down stream countries particularly Egypt,which has declared the Nile waters a “red line” that affects its “national security”.

Of course, Israel is not doing so for the sake of the upstream countries but in   persuasion of its own strategy eyeing the Nile waters to supply the ever-thirsty Zionist entityfor waters. It is no secret that Israel is longing for new supplies of water. Ever since its creation, it has met its water requirements by denying water to the native Palestinians. This may change as the Israeli-PLO "peace process" is played out. Moreover, even if current discriminatory water sharing arrangements continue, Israel is going to need more water to meet its rising domestic water demands.

Enver Masud, Executive Director of The Wisdom Fund, first heard of secret ongoing studies to bring the Nile's water to Israel from a Kenyan hydrological expert in Tanzania who declined to be quoted for fear of reprisals. The Nile, of course, runs through Sudan and Egypt.

Water for Peace

One prominent Sudanese hydro-politics researcher, who declined to be quoted, has questioned the likeliness of negotiating an agreement providing for supply of Nile waters to the ever-thirst Zionist state for settling the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East and the Palestinian question.

The researcher suggests that an internationally negotiated settlement might be worked out, which should provide for restoration of the Palestinian inalienable rights and resolving the Middle East Conflict in compensation for supply of water, insuring at the same time settling the outstanding issues between downstream Egypt and Sudan from one side and up stream Ethiopia and other Nile Basin riparian from other side.

So how does Sudan fits into that picture?

In such a scenario the special circumstances in Sudan makes a difference. The current state of no peace-no war between Sudan and the newly born South Sudan requires careful attention.

Cairo and Khartoum saw the weak link in Nile water security as southern Sudan seeks membership of Nile Basin Initiative.

Last September the newly independent Republic of South Sudan announced it was seeking full membership of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) two months after it became independent on 9 July 2011.

The acting minister of Information, Madut Biar Yel, said South Sudan had already been enjoying an observer status in the organization as a semi-autonomous region before independence, under the umbrella of the then national government in Khartoum.

Egypt is expected to support Sudan to draw a pro-active strategy towards South Sudan in order to foil any Zionist attempt to encourage South Sudan to follow a hostile policy and destabilize Sudan.

Therefore, it would be rational for both Egypt and Sudan to pursue a strategy that accommodates the political, economic and development needs of South Sudan instead of antagonizing the newly born state, a situation, otherwise would prompt Israel to jump in and support hostile forces to Sudan.

Evidently on Friday 23 March, 2012, while a high-level delegation from South Sudan was in Khartoum discussing normalization of bilateral relations, Israeli ambassador, Dan Shaham, met in Juba with the Vice President of South Sudan, Riek Machar and discussed issues pertaining to the bilateral cooperation between the two states. The issues included the support the Israeli government would provide to the new state, according to electronic Sudan Tribune website.


It also worth mentioning that South Sudan, following the recent visit to Israel of the South Sudanese president Salva Kiir, said it will establish an embassy in Jerusalem, the Holy city, rather than the political capital, Tel Aviv,.   

It is feared that if hostile forces exploited unrest in Sudan, it could jeopardize the water supply and threaten the regimes in Cairo and Khartoum. Although such a development probably would not disrupt the flow of the Nile, Egypt and Sudan would react instinctively to protect their interests.

It is no secret that the current regime in Sudan is considered hostile to U.S. interests, and that the U.S. has for half a century uncritically supported the state of Israel. 

The U.S. public is persuaded of human rights abuses in Sudan, the U.S. led and Great Britain backed United Nations passes the needed resolutions, Sudan is subjected to an embargo failing which the U.S. and European powers intervene in Sudan, but the Sudanese regime is either toppled and replaced with one subservient to the West or sufficiently humbled to agree to western demands to let Israel have the Nile water. U.S. taxpayers could donate some more billions of dollars to Israel to lead the hostilities against Sudan and the Middle East.

The idea of supplying Israel with Nile waters should be viewed in the context of the dramatic changes in the Middle East brought by the Arab Spring augmenting nationalist emotions, which could hardly allow for visiting such an idea in light of Israel continued aggression and hostilities against the Palestinians and in persuasion of the Zionist movement to fulfill their dream of ‘Greater Israel’ in the Middle East.  

However, the fear of a Sudan under pro-Islamist regime as compared to a future Egypt under pro-Muslim Brotherhood – was for different reasons, as like Egypt, Sudan does not share a common border with the Zionist entity. Nevertheless, both Egypt and Sudan shares Nile River, which could be a major source of water supply to every-thirsty Zionist entity. The leaders of the World Zionist movement were aware of the necessity of an abundant supply of potable water in order to fulfill their dream of ‘Greater Israel’ in the Middle East.

According to Muriel Mirak-Weissbach of the Schiller Institute, most of Israeli invasion of its Arab neighbors (Lebanon, Egypt and Syria) had been to occupy and exploit their water sources.

While Egypt, under the defunct Hosni Mubarak regime, might had been persuaded to surrender its water to Israel, yet Egypt of the Arab Spring under pro-Muslim Brotherhood is something different and would not entertain such a thought, equally true to the Sudanese mainly Muslim regime, which presents a bigger obstacle. 

The Zionist movement realizing this new challenge posed by the Arab Spring within the Arab world would have no alternative but to opt to its old strategy. That strategy was aiming at weakening Arab countries, particularly Egypt, and so would definitely attempt to cultivate the current developments in the Nile basin,attempting to deepen the conflict over the use of the Nile waters amid growing regional international political concerns.  While we admit there are some missing pieces, here's how we see a scenario, of conflict, if left unchallenged, being played out.

Therefore, it is imperative for Sudan, with support from the Arab Spring pro-Muslim Brotherhood Egypt, to lead a viable strategy towards South Sudan and a strong positive negotiating position for sound management of the dispute over the Nile water. This may only abort in the near future the Israeli agenda of meddling in the Nile Basin water affairs and its attempt to cultivate the out come of the dispute over water. 

In light of Israel growing demands for water and the Zionist dream of “Greater Israel” and in the absence of an agreement resolving the outstanding issues among the Nile Basin riparian, it should be eminently possible to avoid war over water in the Nile Basin. However, to suggest that it will not happen just because there has not been a war over access to fresh water in the past is not persuasive. This is an issue that will require careful attention by the concerned parties and the international community to ensure that conflict does not break out.



Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


Recent tweets

FOLLOW Us On Facebook

Contact Us

Address: Sudan News Agency (SUNA) Building, Jamhoria Street, Khartoum - Sudan

Mobile:+249 909220011 / +249 912307547

Email: info@sudanow-magazine.net, asbr30@gmail.com