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


  • Michael Rubin is a former Pentagon official whose major research areas are the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and diplomacy. Rubin instructs senior military officers deploying to the Middle East and Afghanistan on regional politics, and teaches classes regarding Iran, terrorism, and Arab politics on board deploying U.S. aircraft carriers. Rubin has lived in post-revolution Iran, Yemen, both pre- and post-war Iraq, and spent time with the Taliban before 9/11. His newest book, Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engagement examines a half century of U.S. diplomacy with rogue regimes and terrorist groups.


    Follow Michael Rubin on Twitter.


  • Phone: 202-862-5851
    Email: mrubin@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Ahmad Majidyar
    Phone: 202-862-5845
    Email: ahmad.majidyar@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image Recovering from tax time blues
image 10 welfare reform lessons
image Let HHS nominee Sylvia Burwell explain Obamacare lie
image Why bold ideas backfire in politics
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 14
    MON
  • 15
    TUE
  • 16
    WED
  • 17
    THU
  • 18
    FRI
Wednesday, April 16, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Calling treason by its name: A conversation with Liam Fox

Join us at AEI as the Right Honorable Liam Fox sits down with Marc Thiessen to discuss and debate whether America’s intelligence agencies have infringed on the personal privacy of US citizens.

Thursday, April 17, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
The curmudgeon's guide to getting ahead

How can young people succeed in workplaces dominated by curmudgeons who are judging their every move? At this AEI book event, bestselling author and social scientist Charles Murray will offer indispensable advice for navigating the workplace, getting ahead, and living a fulfilling life.

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