It seems that the first video of the previous message was deleted. Actually, I find a bit difficult to believe that the dozens of men killed by the white emirs of the caliphate were all Christians in that video. Since the Christian people don't represent more than 1% of the Iraqi population (against 10% in the sixties), in all likehood, some were probably Muslims, probably some Iranian or Kurdish fighters, the bad Muslims that were brought to power by the US after the fall of Saddam. During the mandate of Saddam, everything was not going smoothly, but since Saddam was Sunni, it was easy for him to uphold the laws, and there was no Shiite rebellion (He did not like them but he was protecting them anyway).
Here you can find another video of Isis, a soldier explains why they are fighting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBBvMVM6X6U
But in Mosul there may be a bigger threat than ISIS.
The Mosul Dam is failing. A breach would cause a colossal wave that could kill as many as a million and a half people according to the New Yorker
On the morning of August 7, 2014, a team of fighters from the Islamic State, riding in pickup trucks and purloined American Humvees, swept out of the Iraqi village of Wana and headed for the Mosul Dam. Two months earlier, ISIS had captured Mosul, a city of nearly two million people, as part of a ruthless campaign to build a new caliphate in the Middle East. For an occupying force, the dam, twenty-five miles north of Mosul, was an appealing target: it regulates the flow of water to the city, and to millions of Iraqis who live along the Tigris. As the ISIS invaders approached, they could make out the dam’s four towers, standing over a wide, squat structure that looks like a brutalist mausoleum. Getting closer, they saw a retaining wall that spans the Tigris, rising three hundred and seventy feet from the riverbed and extending nearly two miles from embankment to embankment. Behind it, a reservoir eight miles long holds eleven billion cubic metres of water.
A group of Kurdish soldiers was stationed at the dam, and the ISIS fighters bombarded them from a distance and then moved in. When the battle was over, the area was nearly empty; most of the Iraqis who worked at the dam, a crew of nearly fifteen hundred, had fled. The fighters began to loot and destroy equipment. An ISIS propaganda video posted online shows a fighter carrying a flag across, and a man’s voice says, “The banner of unification flutters above the dam.”
The next day, Vice-President Joe Biden telephoned Masoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdish region, and urged him to retake the dam as quickly as possible. American officials feared that ISIS might try to blow it up, engulfing Mosul and a string of cities all the way to Baghdad in a colossal wave. Ten days later, after an intense struggle, Kurdish forces pushed out the ISIS fighters and took control of the dam.
But, in the months that followed, American officials inspected the dam and became concerned that it was on the brink of collapse. The problem wasn’t structural: the dam had been built to survive an aerial bombardment. (In fact, during the Gulf War, American jets bombed its generator, but the dam remained intact.) The problem, according to Azzam Alwash, an Iraqi-American civil engineer who has served as an adviser on the dam, is that “it’s just in the wrong place.” Completed in 1984, the dam sits on a foundation of soluble rock. To keep it stable, hundreds of employees have to work around the clock, pumping a cement mixture into the earth below. Without continuous maintenance, the rock beneath would wash away, causing the dam to sink and then break apart. But Iraq’s recent history has not been conducive to that kind of vigilance.
In October, Iraqi forces, backed by the United States, launched a sprawling military operation to retake Mosul, the largest city under ISIS control. The battle has sometimes been ferocious, with Iraqi soldiers facing suicide bombers, bombardments of chlorine gas, and legions of entrenched fighters. Although some Iraqi leaders predicted a quick success, it appears that the campaign to expel ISIS will be grinding and slow. And yet the biggest threat facing the people of northern Iraq may have nothing to do with who controls the streets.
In February, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a warning of the consequences of a breach in the dam. For a statement written by diplomats, it is extraordinarily blunt. “Mosul Dam faces a serious and unprecedented risk of catastrophic failure with little warning,” it said. Soon afterward, the United Nations released its own warning, predicting that “hundreds of thousands of people could be killed” if the dam failed. Iraq’s leaders, apparently fearful of public reaction, have refused to acknowledge the extent of the danger. But Alwash told me that nearly everyone outside the Iraqi government who has examined the dam believes that time is running out: in the spring, snowmelt flows into the Tigris, putting immense pressure on the retaining wall.
If the dam ruptured, it would likely cause a catastrophe of Biblical proportions, loosing a wave as high as a hundred feet that would roll down the Tigris, swallowing everything in its path for more than a hundred miles. Large parts of Mosul would be submerged in less than three hours. Along the riverbanks, towns and cities containing the heart of Iraq’s population would be flooded; in four days, a wave as high as sixteen feet would crash into Baghdad, a city of six million people. “If there is a breach in the dam, there will be no warning,” Alwash said. “It’s a nuclear bomb with an unpredictable fuse.”
Since civilization dawned in the Middle East, five and a half thousand years ago, the region’s politics and economy have centered on its two great rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates. The rivers, which enter Iraq from the north and converge two hundred and fifty miles south of Baghdad, form an extraordinarily fertile valley in an otherwise dry part of the world. For centuries, populations flourished by tilling the rich alluvial soil left behind each spring by floodwaters receding from the plains between Baghdad and the Persian Gulf. But the rivers also wreaked havoc, delivering too much water or not enough, and the settlements on their banks lurched between periods of drought and flood.
In the nineteen-fifties, governments in the region moved to assert greater control over the rivers with aggressive programs of dam construction. Dams regularize the flow of water, discourage floods, and, by storing water in reservoirs, minimize the impact of droughts. They also give whoever controls them power over the flow of water downstream, rendering other countries vulnerable.
In 1975, when both Syria and Turkey were completing dams on the Euphrates, and the reservoirs behind them began to fill, the river downstream dried up, forcing tens of thousands of Iraqi farmers to abandon their land. “You could walk across the Euphrates, it was so dry,” an Iraqi engineer who worked on the Mosul Dam told me. The same year, Turkey began surveying sites for another dam, just north of the border it shares with Iraq, on the Tigris River. Iraqi officials feared that, during the months or years when the new dam’s reservoir was being filled, many thousands of acres of farmland would have to be abandoned.
At the time, Saddam Hussein’s government was launching a hugely ambitious program of infrastructure development. The regime was awash in money; a previous government had nationalized the oil industry and renegotiated its relationships to the Western companies that had once controlled it. Saddam decided to build dams on both the Tigris and the Euphrates.
Western specialists began making surveys to find the most favorable site, but few places had the right topography for a reservoir: low-lying land, preferably surrounded by mountains. The geology presented even greater problems. Water in dam reservoirs creates tremendous pressure, and only solid rock can stop it from leaking underneath the dam. The surveys revealed a multilayer foundation of anhydrite, marl, and limestone, all interspersed with gypsum—which dissolves in contact with water. Dams built on this kind of rock are subject to a phenomenon called karstification, in which the foundation becomes shot through with voids and vacuums. According to former Iraqi officials who worked on the project, successive teams of geologists reached the same conclusion: no matter where they looked, the prevalence of gypsum would make maintaining a dam difficult.
The government settled on a site north of Mosul, which had the largest potential reservoir of any of the locations the geologists had scouted. “The engineers wanted to show Saddam that they could build something huge,” an Iraqi official who had worked on the dam told me. The location also offered the opportunity to open up tens of thousands of acres north of the dam to irrigation and agriculture, in a series of projects the government called al-Jazeera, or “the peninsula.”
In 1981, Saddam ordered the construction to begin—urged on, according to another former senior Iraqi official, by the military situation. (The official, who lives in Baghdad, spoke to me on condition of anonymity, fearing that he would lose his pension if he spoke out.) A year before, Saddam had launched a huge invasion of Iran, hoping to seize its oilfields and possibly to overthrow its government. But the Iranians pushed back, and the war became a bloody stalemate, with fighting concentrated along the border, near the southern city of Basra.
As the Iraqi soldiers dug in, they were vulnerable to the fluctuations of the Tigris. In 1954 and again in 1969, floods had swept through the south of Iraq, separating Basra from the rest of the country. “Historically, when there is above-average flooding on the Tigris, southern Iraq becomes one large lake,” the retired official told me. Iraq’s leaders feared that they were due for another flood, which would strand the Army. “It was of the utmost importance to begin construction of the dam as quickly as possible,” the official said.
The decision to build the dam started a decades-long argument over who is responsible for the looming disaster. Nasrat Adamo, a former senior official at the Iraqi Ministry of Irrigation, told me that a consortium of Swiss firms hired to oversee the process assured government officials that the gypsum problem could be managed. “We listened to the top experts,” he said. “Everybody agreed that this would not be too serious.” Adamo remains bitter. “The Iraqi government—in a way, I think they were cheated,” he told me. But other people who were involved in building the dam argued that the Iraqis should have been more cautious: the Swiss explained clearly that the site was problematic, and geologists working in the area had raised concerns for decades. They also noted that Soviet and French companies bidding on the project had asked for further surveys and been told that there wasn’t time. Iraqi officials were terrified of disappointing Saddam. Adamo told me that the Minister of Irrigation feared for his life: “If the dam failed, he would be hanged.”
The dam was built in three years, largely by workers from China. Today, a stone memorial on top of the dam commemorates nineteen Chinese nationals who died during its construction; the memorial, inscribed in English and Chinese but not in Arabic, does not give the cause of their deaths. Alwash, the Iraqi-American hydrological engineer, told me that, in Iraq, when laborers fell into wet cement during large infrastructure projects, it was common for the work to carry on. “When you’re laying that much cement on a dam, you can’t stop,” Alwash said. In 1985, the reservoir filled up, and the structure—named the Saddam Dam—began holding back the Tigris.
Shortly after the dam went into use, Nadhir al-Ansari, a consulting engineer, made an inspection for the Ministry of Water Resources. “I was shocked,” he told me. Sinkholes were forming around the dam, and pools of water had begun bubbling up on the banks downstream. “You could see the cracks, you could see the fractures underground,” Ansari said. The water travelling around the dam, known as “seepage,” is normal in limited amounts, but the gypsum makes it potentially catastrophic. “When I took my report back to Baghdad, the chief engineer was furious—he was more than furious. But it was too late. The dam was already finished.”
To control the erosion, the government began a crash program of filling the voids with cement, a process called “grouting.” Meanwhile, Iraqi officials rushed to build a second dam, near a town called Badush, which could help prevent flooding in case the Mosul Dam collapsed. By 1990, just six years later, the new dam was forty per cent complete. Then Saddam sent his Army into Kuwait, sparking the Gulf War, and he ordered all the earthmoving equipment stripped from the Badush site and sent to the front lines. When the United States and its allies arrived to expel the Iraqis from Kuwait, they bombed all the equipment. After the war, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Association discovered stockpiles of nuclear materials near Badush, apparently part of Saddam’s secret weapons program. The U.N. imposed economic sanctions on Iraq, impoverishing the country for a decade. Work on Badush never resumed. “Nobody wanted to go anywhere near the place,” Adamo told me. “This is the story of Iraq.”
When the Americans invaded in 2003, they discovered a country shattered by sanctions. Power plants flickered, irrigation canals were clogged, bridges and roads were crumbling; much of the infrastructure, it seemed, had been improvised. The U.S. government poured billions of dollars into rebuilding it, and in 2006 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began several assessments of the Mosul Dam. The first report was dire, predicting “mass civilian fatalities” if it failed. “In terms of internal erosion potential of the foundation, Mosul Dam is the most dangerous dam in the world,” it said.
When ISIS fighters took the dam, in 2014, they drove away the overwhelming majority of the dam’s workers, and also captured the main grout-manufacturing plant in Mosul. Much of the dam’s equipment was destroyed, some by ISIS and some by American air strikes. The grouting came to a standstill—but the passage of water underneath the dam did not.
Iraqi and American officials are reluctant to discuss how long the grouting was suspended. Naemi, the dam’s director, maintained that it stopped for less than three weeks, while the battle for the dam was raging. American officials said they weren’t sure. Jabouri, the deputy director, said that work had ceased entirely for about four months. Adamo, who said that he’d been in regular contact with the engineers at the dam, said, “The grouting work stopped for eighteen months.”
It’s one of the ironies of Iraq’s political situation that the dam’s turbines still provide electricity to Mosul, which is now under ISIS control; intelligence reports indicate that ISIS has earned millions of dollars by taxing the electricity. After the peshmerga captured the dam two years ago, Kurdish officials intended to shut down the turbines, but American officials told them that this would add more water to the reservoir, making the dam more likely to burst. So ISIS continued to profit from the dam. “We wanted to strangle them, but we weren’t allowed,” a Kurdish official told me.
When the dam was recaptured, American engineers and scientists worried that the lapse in grouting had hastened the erosion of the dam’s foundation. Using satellite photos and data from gauges around the dam, they tried to assess its condition. According to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report, numerous voids had opened up below the dam—as much as twenty-three thousand cubic metres’ worth. “The consensus was that the dam could break at any moment,” John Schnittker, an economist who has been working on water issues in Iraq for more than a decade, said.
In the language of hydraulic engineering, the process eroding the foundation is known as “solutioning.” If that problem is not addressed, what happens next is “piping”: water begins to travel between the voids, moving horizontally beneath the dam. To illustrate, American engineers have devised a triangular chart. The process begins, at the apex, with solutioning, advances through cavity formation and piping, and ends with core collapse and, finally, dam breach—like a Florida sinkhole opening up, unannounced, beneath a shopping center. Engineers jokingly refer to the chart as the “triangle of death.” “Once piping begins, there is no going back. In twelve hours, the dam is gone.”