Mulching War? Middle East’s Latest Flash Point

Published 9:18 am Thursday, February 23, 2017

According to the Associated Press, Iraq and Iran are in another fuss, this time about mulch.

You may have missed that story.

The headline, “Iran blames Iraq for Sandstorm,” caught my attention because I spent Saturday morning spreading mulch at my house. Four loads. By Saturday afternoon I was exhausted, but it seems I may be needed to volunteer as the Middle East mulch ambassador to keep the peace between Iran and Iraq.

I have helped maintain a tenuous peace with my neighbor over a natural area between our properties. The issue every spring is this: Pine straw or bark?

For years, we agreed on pine straw. But several years back, we switched to bark without causing a neighborhood fuss. On Saturday, we again confirmed that bark mulch will be spread between us this spring.

Perhaps Iran and Iraq could learn from our example.

There was a time when the two Arab countries fought over oil and threatened each other with chemical weapons. Now they’re fighting over mulch and sandstorms.

I’m assuming this isn’t one of those fake news things that President Trump bemoans at his press conferences. Here’s the story:

“TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian authorities are blaming neighboring Iraq for a sandstorm that knocked out power in a southern province and sparked protests against local officials.

“Iranian state TV said Monday that Masoumeh Ebtekar, a vice president in charge of environmental affairs, has called on Iraq to implement an agreement to prevent dust storms by spreading mulch over 3,500 sq. miles (9,000 sq. kilometers) of desert.

“Last week hundreds of people protested in the southern city of Ahvaz, demanding the resignation of Ebtekar and the provincial governor over power and water cuts resulting from the storm. Authorities have since banned protests over the issue.

“The sandstorm is still underway, but power and water have been restored.”

By estimate, I mulched a mere 1/25th of an acre on Saturday. All of Davie County is only 267 square miles. Forsyth County is 413 square miles. The State of Delaware is 2,491 square miles.

Iran wants Iraq to mulch its part of the desert that measures larger than Delaware. The two nations signed an agreement to jointly fund the $1.2 billion project — covering the sand with an oil-based mulch to prevent the sand from blowing.

Dust storms have always defined Iran. It was a dust storm that brought down one of the United States’ helicopters when President Carter ordered a rescue attempt of our hostages in 1980.

Ninety percent of Iran is arid, and its surrounding neighbors have deserts too that contribute to the sand storms.

Mulching the sand sounds farfetched.

The thing I’ve noticed about mulch is that my yard requires more every year. The mulch man’s cash register always rings when I arrive. I’ve learned to cover up errors and bare spots with mulch. If grass won’t grow in a certain area, I mulch it.

That’s what Iran was thinking, too. There’s always something crazy happening in the Middle East.

– Dwight Sparks