Friday, July 11, 2014

Quick Review of Regional Relations for an emerging Kurdistan

As today the Kurds have announced their withdrawal from the Iraq government, the relations with the Maliki government will be strained in the extreme as new appointments have been made and the economic impact to civil employees will be immediately felt. Also there is the seizure of related oil fields and small refineries.

But how will Kurdistan evolve with the likes of Turkey and Iran?


Iran announced today that if the Kurds break off from the central Iraqi (Maliki) government that it will close its border crossing with the Kurds to commerce. This will have negative economic impacts on all involved, but it might also have the unexpected consequence of pushing the Kurds toward ISIL and Turkey if for no other reason than it is fully landlocked and must have exits for oil and the most basic economic trade routes; ancient and modern.

So where does this leave relations between the Kurds and ISIL.  There are continuing car bombings and low grade skirmishes immediately south of Kirkuk and presumed IS forces.  But the fact is if the Kurds are going to keep their oil fields they will either have to fight to keep them or they will have to reach a trade accommodation with Sunni Arabs to the west for gasoline refinement, basic security and economic trade.  So is Maliki blowing smoke when he says that there are ISIL being sheltered in Kurdish territories or is it an indication of emerging diplomatic relations and new alliances?

- This article is quantifying the economic damage of ISIL to Iraq at about $25 billion so far.

- This article quotes Iranian officials as threatening not to recognize a Kurdish break with the Maliki government and threatens as follows. "Iranian Ambassador Danie has told PUK and Gorran leaders that,

Iran won’t recognize any Kurdish independent state. In the event of a declaration of independence, Iran will close all border crossings with Kurdistan and will help all Iraqi officials and parties stand against this attempt [Kurdish independence].”

Iran refuses any negotiation for Maliki’s replacement with the possibility of his rise as PM for a third term. Until the Iraqi Army regains the controlled areas by ISIS insurgents, Iran will have no discussions about replacing Maiki.  Finally, the Iranian  Ambassador emphasized attempts to bring all Iraqi parties together again." 


Impact of ISIL hostage taking and Turkish relations.

ISIL seized and is holding hostage the Turkish consulate staff from Mosul.  Also it ransomed out the Turkish truckers earlier this month.  An obvious consequence is a breakdown in commerce between the ISIL areas.  Turkish truckers don't want to travel through Mosul and are traveling east through Kurdish controlled areas even though supply runs south are now at least 20% longer and delayed at border crossing by about 5 days.  Routes even further east through Iran appear to be unfavorable due to fees and duties imposed by Iran and crossings.  So in short, Turkey needs to export to Iraq and it needs to import gasoline and oil.  All of these factors now favor an emerging relationship and perhaps recognition between Turkey and the Kurds.

Economic Impact of disrupted trade routes and Turkish exports
- This article from Daily Star discusses the shift in Turkish relations with Kurdistan and quantifies some of the economics of that changing relationship. "

“The main reason behind the change of Turkey’s stance toward the Iraqi Kurds and Barzani lies in its commercial interests,” Nihat Ali Ozcan, an analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation in Ankara, said by phone July 9. “The Turkish government has stopped viewing Kurds both at home and in Iraq as a threat to its unity. It’s now seeking to exert economic and political influence over them.”
Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

Trade with the Kurdish region of 4 million people accounts for a growing share of Turkey’s exports to Iraq, which reached $12 billion last year, making it the second-biggest market after Germany. About 1,300 Turkish companies are working in the Kurdish region. And the Kurds’ estimated 45 billion barrels of oil reserves offer an alternative supply for Turkey’s $800 billion economy, which is dependent on energy imports.

- Referenced here is an excellent Turkish article on the extreme impact ISIL is having on the Turkish-Iraqi trade or now lack thereof, the new supply routes, the collapse in trucking prices - ironically as the lack of demand is far greater than the collapse in export volume. "

"The trade has almost stopped," said logistics company owner Kemal Palta, who runs a fleet of 67 trucks from his office in Silopi, close to the Iraqi border crossing at Habur. "There is no demand. There are no cargoes for our trucks to carry. I saw some experts saying there's been a fall of 20 percent. If only that was the case," said Palta, who is also a senior official in the local chamber of commerce. "I'd say there's a fall of at least 60 percent and it will get worse in July," Palta said, a view echoed by the truckers at Habur, so congested just a month ago that they routinely waited in line for up to five days for paperwork to cross into Iraq.

Turkish exports to Iraq fell 21 percent to $727 million in June, according to data from the Turkish Exporters Association (TIM), but the full extent of the drop-off in trade is only likely to be reflected in the figures over the coming months. Iraq has risen to become Turkey's second biggest export market after Germany in recent years as the country rebuilds its economy after decades of war and sanctions and Ankara has sought to diversify its trade away from a dependence on Europe. Exports to Iraq, mostly to the autonomous Kurdish enclave in the north of the country, had been growing in the double digits since 2005, at times in excess of 30 percent, helping to narrow a trade gap partly responsible for Turkey's big current account deficit, its main economic weakness. More than $5 billion worth of exports were shipped to Iraq in the first five months, broadly in line with volumes in the same period a year earlier, before the insurgency flared. Food, building materials and refined fuel are among the main products going across the border by road."

This article discusses the negative impact on Turkish exports caused by ISIL and the impact it is having on trade corridors for Turkey. "Of the $30 billion Iraqi imports, a third is from Turkey. Gaziantep alone provides around a fifth of Iraq’s imports. So Iraq by itself is important for Turkey. Now two things are happening at once. First of all, it is getting increasingly harder to send trucks down to Iraq. Secondly, Iraqi import demand is declining rather rapidly as Iraq transforms into a war zone. The decline in Iraqi orders has now reached 40 percent, and doesn’t seem like it will stop there, declining orders and a lack of transport corridor to send the goods. That’s bad for Turkey and especially bad for provinces neighboring Iraq and Syria."
Kurds as a Swing Vote in Upcoming Turkish Elections
- This article points out that the Kurds in Turkey may be the swing vote in upcoming elections and that this weighs in on the favorable response Turkey is giving toward Kurdish independence in Iraq. 

Kurds withdraw support, leaving Iraq without a president - The Guardian

The Kurds have ended participation in the Iraqi government, demonstrating a deepening rift between the group and Nouri al-Maliki after the prime minister accused them of harbouring terrorists in the Kurdish capital of Irbil.
Hoshyar Zebari, the foreign minister and a Kurd, told Reuters on Friday that Kurdish ministers were suspending their day-to-day running of his ministry and other posts, leaving Iraq without a president and several ministers. This follows Thursday's announcement by the Kurds that they would boycott all cabinet meetings....

-bth: I can understand the Kurdish push for independence.  But what happens when ISIS decides to go get the oil fields south or Kirkuk.  Can the Kurds hold this ground or will they need assistance from the Iraqi government that they are dissecting? 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Isaac Asimov's 3 laws of robotics

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm;
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law;
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. 

Introducing WildCat

High-Tech Guns from Iraq Ending Up at Sulaimani Market

SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Gun prices at the arms market in Sulaimani have dropped, except for the high-tech American-made guns recently coming in from the rest of Iraq, where Iraqi troops last month left their weapons and fled in the face of a jihadi-led advance.

Merchants at the market said that prices for some guns have dropped by about a half, because everyone wants the new American-made firearms.

Two months ago a Russian-made Kalashnikov AK47 rifle would fetch between $800-$3,000, depending on the condition. Those now go for $400-$1,400. A Glock handgun that went for $3,300 before now gets only $2,100, according to sellers in the market.

“Most of them (the new guns) are weapons from Iraq which have landed with civilians and they are profiting by buying and selling,” said Azad Anwar, one of the merchants.

He said that some 400-500 weapons are sold each day at the market, mostly US-made machine guns like the M16, M4 and M60...

-bth: looks like prices are coming off their hysteria highs a few weeks ago. Also article goes on to say that buys are now middle age Peshmerga.

ISIS weapons windfall may alter balance in Iraq, Syria conflicts - LA Times

...ISIS "took the weapons stores of the 2nd and 3rd [Iraqi army] divisions in Mosul, the 4th division in Salah al Din, the 12th division in the areas near Kirkuk, and another division in Diyala," said Jabbar Yawar, secretary-general of the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs, punctuating his words with quick flicks of his laser pointer as he stitched a scythe-like arc across a map denoting various provinces and cities strung across northern and central Iraq."We're talking about armaments for 200,000 soldiers, all from the Americans," concluded Yawar, a mustachioed figure whose office in Irbil features a photograph of him as a young peshmerga fighter in the 1980s against the government of former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein....
The group's success has prompted President Obama to seek $500 million from Congress to train "appropriately vetted elements of the moderate Syrian opposition."
As ISIS continues to storm through Iraq, Bilal said, its leaders seem determined to repeat the same offensive trajectory in Syria — and regain areas ceded to rivals in northern Syria.
"They are seeking to control the Turkish border in its entirety," he said, and "to cut off the supply routes and retake all the areas they lost."

Clashes between army, supporters of fringe cleric imperil stability in Iraq’s Shiite south - WaPo

... Diwaniyah, unemployment and poverty stir discontent. The town’s tire factory, which once distributed its wares across the country, now barely functions. Next door, the textile plant lies long shuttered. With few employment options, many young men join the Iraqi army, with the 8th Division stationed in the town.

But just 70 soldiers remain in its barracks, Budairi said. “Frankly, soldiers left because they are cowards,” he said.

The state’s use of irregular forces and militias has helped to stem the Islamic State's rampage. But as battle lines stagnate, Smyth argues, it is only a matter of time before the united front against a common enemy begins to fray.

“The less advances, then the more potential for internal fighting,” he said. “There will be a tipping point.”...

-bth: with 70 soldiers in barricks it doesn't sound like a division sized unit despite the name.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

ISIS/ISIL forces are successful because - RangerAgainstWar

ISIS/ISIL forces are successful because:

1) The Shia Iraqi forces lack legitimacy and a broad popular mandate, except for the Shi'ites who repress the Sunni minority. This is democracy as tool of oppression

2) ISIS/ISIL forces have popular support, both active and passive. 

3) ISIS/ISIL has safe haven and short lines of communication, with simple plans that are not phased or overly complicated.

4) The ISIS/ISIL forces are strictly following the principles of war [though not the Geneva Conventions (GC's)]

5) They live off the land, gaining momentum daily

6) They enjoy an unlimited pool of replacement fighters

7) They have combat-experienced leaders rather than executive-style corporate managers directing their operations. They do not mistake motion for progress

8) They have nothing to lose, and everything to gain

9) They are ideologically- and religiously-motivated

Dual Mode Brimstone: MQ-9 Reaper Test Shots