Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gasoline available in Kurdish region

...Hawrami referred to an oil shortage that had caused a crisis in the Kurdistan Region, following the outbreak of Iraq’s war with the Islamic State in June. He said there is now plenty of fuel in gasoline stations.

“We are happy that there’s no longer something called a fuel crisis in the region. We now have a large volume of gasoline in the stations,” Hawrami added. “We are closely monitoring the quality of the gasoline sold.”

The minister said the government would not intervene to set gas prices, which he said was the duty of the parliament’s Oil and Gas Committee.

He said a coupon system for subsidized fuel had not worked. “We will go back to parliament to rework the system.” 

bth: there is separate report that Iran has raised gasoline prices along its Iraq border.   So where is the gasoline coming from if the Baiji refinery is off line?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Decentralized Control for UAV / UGV Landing

Taliban able to amass large scale attacks against Afghans lacking artillery or air support

Nevertheless, the mounting intensity of the Taliban's assaults - often involving hundreds of fighters at a time - poses an increasingly serious challenge to security forces that have long relied on NATO support from the air.

Kunduz police chief Mohseni said that the pace of attacks had doubled since the fighting season started in May - around the time opium crops have been planted and paths cleared in snowy mountains - and, for the first time in years, insurgents were engaging his men in hand-to-hand combat.

"Some of the areas in the province have recently become very insecure and they (the Taliban) carry out attacks in big numbers to bring remote districts under their control," Mohseni said.

He said the Taliban's morale had clearly been boosted by a government-decreed ban on using heavy artillery in residential areas to avoid civilian casualties, and in particular by the lack of lack of NATO air support on the battlefield.

In Helmand, in the south-west, security forces struggled without ISAF air support last month to fend off an attack that involved about 800 Taliban. The battle lasted eight days and nearly 1,000 people, including many civilians, were killed.

Whole districts in Helmand are now essentially under Taliban control and the special forces commander there says he wants a truce to stop the loss of life as skirmishing continues.

In Nangarhar, by contrast, a similar Taliban attack was averted by ISAF airstrikes that inflicted heavy casualties and their assault was over in a morning with minimal losses inflicted on Afghan security forces.
"Airpower by the foreign troops is the key component to this battle and we have lost many men simply because we couldn't ask our foreign partners for air strikes," said a senior Afghan general who asked not to be named....

-bth: this Reuters article is worth reading in full.  Karzai lets prisons go so army has stopped taking them. Taliban are able to amass 800 men or more for sustain periods while Karzai has banned use of artillery in populated places and there is no allied air cover in key provinces.

NATO money not where mouth is

...At the summit, allied leaders will also wrestle with the decline in defense budgets that has left only four countries -- the U.S., U.K., Estonia and debt-ravaged Greece -- meeting an informal goal of spending at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on the military.
Another seven have pledged to get up to that level in the wake of Russia’s intimidation of Ukraine. Whether the summit will set a precise target with binding deadlines is uncertain, partly because debate rages over what the money is spent on, the diplomat said....

bth: until NATO is willing to spend 2% GDP on Europe's defense it is hard to take them seriously.  One would think they would be more alarmed given recent Russian activity.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Current Observations on ISIL

ISIS strategy for income generation and a sustainable nation state.


In June ISIL reportedly stole $425 million from an Iraqi bank.
So the banker were robbed and money likely shared with Iraqi officers that allowed that to happen.  But that seems to me to be a one time thing and any hope of western style banking in ISIL territories likely vanished for the foreseeable future. 


...Fighters from ISIS have overrun large areas in five of Iraq’s most fertile provinces, where the United Nations food agency says around 40 percent of its wheat is grown.
Now they’re helping themselves to grain stored in government silos, milling it and distributing the flour on the local market, an Iraqi official told Reuters. ISIS has even tried to sell smuggled wheat back to the government to finance a war effort marked by extreme violence and brutality....

Many farmers have joined the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have fled the Arab and foreign fighters’ advance. Those who remain have yet to be paid for the last crop, meaning they have no money to buy seed, fuel and fertilizers to plant the next.

The statistics following the jihadists’ lightning advance across northern Iraq in June are grim both for the government in Baghdad and a population that needs reliable food supplies.Iraq’s Trade Ministry says 1.1 million tons of wheat it bought from farmers this harvest season is in silos in the five provinces. This represents nearly 20 percent of annual Iraqi consumption which the U.S. Department of Agriculture puts at around 6.5 million tons, roughly half of which is imported....

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: 

One has to wonder what the Sunni farmers are going to do if the Iraqi government failed to make payment to them for this years harvest and ISIL seized the government granaries and dumped the money to raise cash.  Where will the farmers get money for their next year's planting?  Does this foretell a shortage of wheat next year in Iraq?


...To hire a truck to come the 200 miles from the Kurdish capital Erbil to Baghdad now cost $10,000 for a single journey, compared to $500 a month earlier....

Turkey to Southern Iraqi truck routes have shifted into Iran. Outside of Germany, Iraq is Turkey's second largest export market and most of those exports were destined for the southern areas of Iraq so this travel disruption will have a definitive impact on local economics.


...Beyond the fighting, other complex problems still exist that could easily tilt the balance in Iraq. In Baiji, near the country's center, 300,000 barrels of refining capacity is off-line after ISIS rebels fought for control, according to the Iraq Energy Institute's Luay al-Khatteeb ....

If this is true then gasoline must remain in short supply in the ISIL areas though it still appears that small bootleg operations move black-market gasoline from Syrian ISIL areas to Turkey where it is sold below government prices there.  Turkey has amongst the highest gasoline prices in the world. 

What I don't understand is how with the Baiji refinery off line and the Iranians unable to export gasoline now, why isn't there a major gasoline shortage continuing in all areas of Iraq? Or is it that the economy there is grinding to a slow halt except for oil exports?

Surprisingly reporting on gasoline shortages in Iraq have all but stopped.  Why is this?


...Finally, the recent Islamist drive in Iraq has allowed the IS to seize two small oil fields in the northwestern Nineveh province, the IEA said.When added to five others captured in mid-June, output under IS control now totals about 80,000 barrels per day, it estimated.The IS also holds small fields in the Syrian province of Deir al-Zor, which "allow the militants to secure their own fuel supplies and offer a potential source of revenue via smuggling."...

...As ISIS steams further into Syria, analysts say a significant portion of its financial resources come from the crude oil it sells on the black market; accordingly, oil fields have become prime targets in the fight. So do gas fields like Shaar, where disruption of lines lead to electricity shortages and power cuts in regime-controlled areas as far as Damascus....

...Officials from the Iraqi oil industry have said that ISIS reaps $1 million per day in Iraq in oil profits and that if they get the Syrian fields in [areas where they're advancing], the total would be $100 million per month for both Iraq and Syria combined. They sell it for $30 a barrel because it's a black market. It's not pegged to international standards for oil prices, which are over $100 a barrel. The oil is bought through Turkey from Syria, and it's sold to black market traders who function throughout the Levant

...The $1 million a day figure is coming out of the Iraqi fields of which they have control. Iraq and Syria together could reach up to $3 million a day, so they're still getting more oil out of Syria [than Iraq]. Production is at 10 percent of pre-war levels – they're old, mature fields that need a lot of special technological work, and they're not getting it, so production is falling very sharply. We've seen from reports that ISIS controls most of the oil fields in eastern Syria and Deir Ezzor, right up to the northeast, where some are under Kurdish control.

Another report says, [ISIL] "Then it filled trucks and sold crude for the cut-rate price of $26 a barrel to Iraqi traders, who resold it to Kurdish smugglers at a 100% markup. ISIS quickly developed its smugglers’ network—to which it now sells about 100 truckfuls of oil daily for around $9,000 each—netting nearly $1 million a day, according to truckers and officials who detailed the bonanza to the industry newsletter Iraq Oil Report. Not bad for a group with just about 10,000 fighters. Said one Kurdish intelligence officer: “This is a very profitable business.”"


..."In June ISIL captured about fifty of those M198 155mm towed howitzers and began looking for someone to operate this stuff. That was not difficult. This was because Sunni Arabs got most of the leadership (officer, senior NCO) and technical (like operating artillery) jobs during the decades of Saddam’s rule. ISIL has a large pool of experienced users of artillery. While most Iraqi artillery was Russian, they also had over a hundred Western 155mm models, like the South African GHN-45. This weapon was not only similar to the M198 but superior in some ways (like longer range). The main reason the U.S. disbanded the Iraqi armed forces after 2003 was the fact that nearly all the key personnel were Sunni Arabs, who had just lost power and access to most of the oil income. That loss of power and privilege made most Sunni Arabs very angry and that’s why to this day most Islamic terrorists in Iraq are Iraqi Sunni Arabs. Thus ISIL knew it had a waiting supply of qualified soldiers who knew how to operate an M198 and many were willing to do it without too much prompting.
... Each one weighs eight tons, and can fire conventional rounds as far as 22.4 kilometers (for rocket-assisted projectiles, the range is 30 kilometers). These unguided shells land anywhere within a 200 meter circle. That's at 25 kilometers range. Accuracy gets worse at longer ranges. It takes 12 minutes for the M198 to be ready to fire after the truck towing it stops. It can pack up and move again in about 4 minutes. Using GPS the M198 can be in position to fire in less than ten minutes and shift to another target in about 8 minutes. ...."

So American drones destroyed two artillery pieces tarting Arbil.  That isn't very much damage considering that ISIL has at least 48 more.  ISIL has It may very well be that these artillery pieces will be shifted to Syria where they will be out of reach of US air power.


...There were ominous signs that Iraqis feared a future filled with violence as weapons and ammunition soared in price. The cost of a bullet for an AK47 assault rifle quickly tripled to 3,000 Iraqi dinars, or about $2. Kalashnikovs were almost impossible to buy from arms dealers, though pistols could still be obtained at three times the price of the previous week. Suddenly, almost everybody had guns, including even Baghdad’s paunchy, white-shirted traffic police who began carrying sub-machine guns....

On August 8th prices around Arbil were reported by one gun merchant, "He sold 45 guns on Thursday alone, fetching $1,300 for an assault rifle that used to cost $700."


..."Thus while in 2013 37 percent of Turks were concerned about Islamic terrorism that is now 50 percent thanks to increased ISIL violence on the Syrian border and some inside Turkey itself. In 2013 54 percent of the people in Jordan were concerned versus 62 percent now for the same reason. In Lebanon, where the Syrian violence spilled over quickly after 2011, in 2013 81 percent were concerned about Islamic terrorism versus 92 percent today."

One wonders though how Turkey can continue to support ISIL or its equivalent while over 40 of its diplomats are being held hostage in Iraq.

Ukraine separatist leader says rebels getting tanks and reinforcements

...Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, said the rebels were in the process of receiving some 150 armoured vehicles, including 30 tanks, and 1,200 fighters who he said had spent four months training in Russia....

bth; very hard to understand what is true or not.  It looks like we can confirm that the white aid trucks are in fact spray painted army vehicles.  For some reason they are not loaded with many supplies.  They are driven by men in new non-uniforms and the trucks didn't have the usual paperwork or personal items on the dash board consistent with a privately owned vehicle.  Twelve-hundred men referenced here divided by 280 trucks would leave room for ammunition and personal gear.  Also there were the sightings by reporters of armored vehicle escorts crossing into Ukraine. This would be consistent with Zakharchenko's statements.