Iran's dam diplomacy

Article Highlights

  • Dam construction has been the flagship of the Iranian push into northern Lebanon.

    Tweet This

  • Iranian dam building cannot be dismissed simply as an outgrowth of Tehran’s desire to diversify its economy.

    Tweet This

  • While Iran has been building dozens of dams across the country, it has increasingly looked to the external market.

    Tweet This

Iran’s best known exports are oil, pistachios, caviar, and carpets, but over the past decade the Islamic Republic has quietly become a major force in dam construction. Iran today ranks third in dam building internationally, after China and Japan, and today it is building the world’s tallest concrete dam in Lorestan, in western Iran.

While Iran has been building dozens of dams across the country, it has increasingly looked to the external market. The Eini project announced in the excerpted article is part of Iran’s outreach to Tajikistan. It is not the first hydroelectric plant Iranian engineers have built in that Central Asian republic: in 2006 an Iranian firm began construction of the Sangtoudeh II plant, approximately 45 miles southeast of the Tajik capital Dushanbe. Iran is also building dams in Kyrgyzstan and in neighboring Azerbaijan and Armenia. More recently, Iran has begun to develop dams further afield, for example, in Nicaragua and Ecuador. Dam construction has also been the flagship of the Iranian push into traditional Sunni and Christian areas in northern Lebanon, an area of increasing strategic importance to the Islamic Republic, as it abuts the Alawi-dominated Latakia region, to which supporters of Bashar al-Assad would likely retreat should the Assad regime collapse in Damascus.

Iranian dam building cannot be dismissed simply as an outgrowth of Tehran’s desire to diversify its economy. The firms contracted to build such hydroelectric plants without exception fall under the rubric of Khatam al-Anbia, the economic wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Not only do they therefore represent a mechanism by which the IRGC can bolster its budget beyond ordinary line items and win Iranian hard currency, but also the dam construction can provide a means to insert IRGC members into areas where they could, in theory, conduct surveillance or support other operations. Khatam al-Anbia can also exploit partnerships with construction and engineering firms outside Iran in order to acquire technology and equipment which the Iranian government would be unable to import directly because of sanctions.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Michael
Rubin

What's new on AEI

AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters
image A nation divided by marriage
image Teaching reform
image Socialist party pushing $20 minimum wage defends $13-an-hour job listing
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 27
    MON
  • 28
    TUE
  • 29
    WED
  • 30
    THU
  • 31
    FRI
Monday, October 27, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
State income taxes and the Supreme Court: Maryland Comptroller v. Wynne

Please join AEI for a panel discussion exploring these and other questions about this crucial case.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 | 9:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
For richer, for poorer: How family structures economic success in America

Join Lerman, Wilcox, and a group of distinguished scholars and commentators for the release of Lerman and Wilcox’s report, which examines the relationships among and policy implications of marriage, family structure, and economic success in America.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 | 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
The 7 deadly virtues: 18 conservative writers on why the virtuous life is funny as hell

Please join AEI for a book forum moderated by Last and featuring five of these leading conservative voices. By the time the forum is over, attendees may be on their way to discovering an entirely different — and better — moral universe.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 | 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
A nuclear deal with Iran? Weighing the possibilities

Join us, as experts discuss their predictions for whether the United States will strike a nuclear deal with Iran ahead of the November 24 deadline, and the repercussions of the possible outcomes.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 | 5:00 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.
The forgotten depression — 1921: The crash that cured itself

Please join Author James Grant and AEI senior economists for a discussion about Grant's book, "The Forgotten Depression: 1921: The Crash That Cured Itself" (Simon & Schuster, 2014).

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.