Climate change is quickly becoming one of the biggest threats faced by the international community and has the capacity to greatly impact global security. The relationship between climate change and conflict is still unraveling; however, worsening climatic events have contributed to political instability around the world. As climate change implications become more apparent, water is less abundant due to worsening droughts and less precipitation, allowing it to become a target for groups seeking to control territory or populations. This paper examines the impact of climate change in shifting the power dynamic between states and violent non-state actors within their borders. More specifically, focusing on the use of water weaponization by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The water weaponization of ISIL in Iraq and Syria shows the ability of water resources to be manipulated in a water scarce and politically unstable environment to strengthen the role of violent non-state actors. This research creates a chronology of water weaponization to track acts of water weaponization by ISIL from 2012, as they gained power in Iraq and Syria, until 2019 following the ‘defeat’ of their caliphate. Succeeding the chronology, acts of water weaponization are tracked using the Institute for the Study of War’s ISIS Sanctuary maps and Situation Reports to find the connection between acts of water weaponization and the strength of their caliphate through territory held. Through identifying fourteen water weaponization acts by ISIL from 2012-2019, a connection is found between the acquisition of a water resource, or an attack weaponizing water, and the territorial shifts of the caliphate over time. In doing so, this research hopes to contribute to a better understanding of the relationship between climate change and conflict connected to future security and counterterrorism measures to combat climate related threats.



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