TEHRAN – More than two months after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned the Afghan authorities and set a one-month deadline to launch the cable for his country's share of the Helmand River, political circles in Tehran are increasingly pressuring the government to use non-diplomatic papers to fulfill its "water rights" and save large areas in the east of the country from a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe exacerbated by drought.
Following Raisi's remarks on May 18, the Taliban issued a statement criticizing the Iranian side's position and stressing that the water was insufficient to flow into Iranian territory.
For his part, the spokesman for the Iranian Space Organization, Hossein Delerian, published a picture of the Afghan Kajaki Dam, explaining that it was taken by the Iranian satellite "Khiam", and shows that the Kabul authorities have diverted the course of water deep into Afghan territory instead of the common border with Iran.
Despite the tireless efforts of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, deputies of Sistan and Baluchestan province in the Iranian parliament confirm that the Taliban movement has not yet launched a drop of water towards the Iranian side.
This situation prompted political and environmental circles to criticize the parliament for not holding the government accountable in the Helmand water file.
Criticism and pressure
For his part, environmental activist Mohammad Darwish believes that the Afghan side is dealing with the water file brilliantly to buy time, criticizing his country's diplomacy for not resolving the file within the specified deadline, and its leniency with the Taliban authorities, he said.
In an interview with Al Jazeera Net, Darwish said that it was better for representatives of Sistan and Baluchestan province in parliament to move to question the foreign minister or declare a yellow card in the face of the government in this file, warning of the worsening humanitarian and environmental conditions in eastern Iran if drought and increasing desertification are not addressed.
He explained that a study of Iranian satellite images from Afghan dams and the Helmand River shows that Kabul has recently released about one billion cubic meters of water from the Kajki dam and prevented the flow of water towards Iran by building other small dams.
That's why the Taliban didn't allow Iranian experts to inspect the course of the Helmand River and the Kajgi dam to check that there was not enough water behind the dam, Doresh said.
Tehran bases its demand for Kabul to respect its share of Helmand's water on the 1972 agreement between the two sides, prompting the Iranian parliament to turn the agreement into a law to pressure the government to implement it, according to MP Habibollah Dahmarda, who warned of waves of forced migration due to water scarcity and changing demographics in the country.
"Since the drying up of Lake Hamun – the third largest lake in Iran and the seventh in the year – some villages in eastern Iran have been almost unpopulated." According to Dahmarda, he warned of the consequences of prolonging the water scarcity crisis on life in Sistan and Baluchestan province.
Dahmarda urges the government to implement Oman Sea desalination projects, noting that implementation could take at least two years.
Iranian television quoted the spokesman for the water sector in Iran, Firouz Qasimzadeh, as saying that "the use of seawater is on the agenda to overcome water scarcity, and there are 5 mega projects to desalinate seawater and transport it to the provinces in full swing, and the goal is to transfer 4 billion cubic meters of seawater to the Iranian interior after desalination."
In order for national seawater desalination projects to bear fruit, there are those who believe that Tehran must play with the cards it has to secure its share of the Helmand River's water.
Among them is Fida Hossein Malki, a senior member of Iran's parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, who has called for the use of diplomatic tools to pressure the Taliban.
Malki blames the Iranian government for rushing to hand over the Afghan embassy in Tehran to the Taliban, when this and other cards could have been used to pressure Kabul to release Iran's share of water.
Tools & Papers
Speaking to Al Jazeera Net, Malki revealed that one of the committees of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran is studying non-diplomatic tools "to extract the right of the people from the waters of the Helmand River, after the Taliban refrained from cooperating in this file," stressing that there is no retreat from the country's share of the Helmand River after President Ebrahim Raisi's warning, as he put it.
He pointed out that a large part of Afghanistan's trade exchanges take place through the port of Chabahar on the northern bank of the Sea of Oman, where Sistan and Baluchestan province suffers from thirst, stressing that the issue of transporting goods through Iranian territory can be used as part of the pressure papers.
Iran supplies fuel to Afghanistan and can use this file to pressure it on the issue of water, Malki said.
He concluded by saying that the Afghan side had "shown great cooperation during the era of President Hamid Karzai to release Iran's share of Helmand's waters."
In the context, the deputy of Sistan and Baluchestan province in the Iranian parliament, Mohammad Sarkezi, calls on his country's authorities to reconsider the policy of receiving Afghan immigrants, explaining that his country hosts about 7 million Afghan immigrants, including 700,<> students studying for free in Iranian schools.
In a press statement, the Iranian MP states that 90% of Afghan nationals had entered his country illegally, and Tehran has the right to repatriate them in accordance with international laws.
Although Kabul's stance on President Raisi's warning about his country's share of the Helmand River has angered the Iranian public, some quarters are warning at the same time against going too far in pressuring the Taliban to block those stalking Iranian security.