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Iraq’s Coming Apocalypse

by Daniel Pipes


No, it’s not ISIS or rampaging Shi’i militias. It’s the Mosul Dam, Iraq’s largest, and its possible collapse, perhaps leading to millions of deaths. Those in the know worry catastrophe could strike this spring, as snows melt and build an uncontrollable water pressure.

Hastily built in wartime for the dictator Saddam Hussein by a German-Italian consortium, the Mosul Dam was located where it is because one of Hussein’s cronies came from the area and used his pull, despite the fact that engineers knew from the start that its porous gypsum base could not sustain such a huge structure.

What was then called the Saddam Dam opened in 1984 and within two years needed constant grouting, that is, day and night infusions of microfine cement, lots of it – 200 million pounds over the decades – to keep it from collapsing. The grouting keeps the foundational problem from worsening but does not solve it.

The years went by; fortunately, there was no disaster on the American watch. Then, during a fateful ten-day period, August 7-17, 2014, the Islamic State (ISIS) seized control of the dam. While the group neither sabotaged nor blew up the structure, grouting stopped for six weeks and the whole repair regime – especially the skilled workers and the supply of cement


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