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Resource Wars - Yüksel Yasemin Altıntaş

Inter and intrastate conflicts can be caused by the desire to control lootable products such as timber, drugs, and gemstones, natural resources like water, or hydrocarbons. Yet, in general, they are not the primary initiators of a conflict. The development of natural resources impacts states’ power, foreign policy, and human security, political and social stability. Thus controlling resources change world politics by creating new regional and global dynamics by forming new alliances or changing the structure of the existing alliances.

Sometimes natural resources itself can be used as a weapon during the war times, and this is not a new trend. For instance, in 430BC during the Peloponnesian war, Spartans poisoned the drinking water in Athens. As a more recent example al-Shabaab’s (a terrorist group), the action of diverting water from the Jubba River in Somalia and causing a flood that forced opposing forces to move to higher ground, where they were ambushed can be given.

Resources can also be served as the triggering factor in inter- and intrastate conflicts. In the lack of democratic or stable state structures, if a state owns natural resources, religious or ethnic tensions, and poverty, these resources serve as fueling or triggering factors of conflict. Many countries in Africa, such as Angola, Rwanda, and the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, and Liberia diamonds, have funded brutal wars. Only alone in the Central African Republic Blood diamond conflict taken more than 3.7 million lives.

These resources do not have to be lootable, ones which cannot be easily transported can be as important as transportable resources such as water. For instance, fighting over grazing land in central Mali over water resources caused the massacres and the displacement of more than 50,000 people. Cauvery water dispute between Karnataka & Tamilnadu is another inter-state water dispute that emerged regarding the share of Mahanadi River. Water installations can also be the target of military action. Literature indicates that the importance of water resources is rapidly increasing, and actors are targeting these resources in the cases of dispute periods. Chronologically speaking, most water conflicts are subnational disputes, and there is a significant increase in attacks on civilian water systems.

During the conflict periods, lootable like gemstones and drugs usually becomes the primary source of income. In the case of intra-state disputes controlling hydrocarbon resources may not be the primary aim of the sides or at least rebellions. Due to their easy to transport and sell off advantages, narcotics, and gemstones were favored more in compare to hydrocarbon resources by the rebel forces. Control of lootable commodities plays a significant role in the course of affairs during the conflicts because states cannot invest in their technological, industrial development, or education of its citizens during the conflict times, and rebels can use these resources to finance their activities or to attract more supporters. That’s how these lootable commodities become extra crucial for states.

Politicians can also use these resources to bribe other states, statesmen, and civilians or use them to finance their military activities too. Just like hydrocarbon resource dependency, leaders can also depend, exploit lootable resources to consolidate their regimes too. Third parties can also support the civil wars to get a share from these lootable; they can either take a side with the government or with the rebellions according to their interests. For instance, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kabila Government offered timber concession to Zimbabwe to get their military assistance. Depending on their resources, states may become stronger or vulnerable. Having natural resources in one’s territory does not make that state a strong player in international politics. To secure its citizens’ security and needs, states have to be able to control and maintain the safety of its resources. We hope to see fewer resources triggered or caused conflicts in the upcoming years.


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