Saturday, May 23, 2015

Iraq Militiamen

... The problem is that many of the militias, with their estimated 100,000 men under arms, haven’t exactly endeared themselves to the population.

“It’s fitting that we send our brutes to fight their barbarians,” one shopkeeper in Baghdad’s upmarket Karrada district mumbled, shortly after another convoy of militia SUVs hurtled down her street.

Militiamen in Basra, Iraq’s second city, deep in the Shia-majority south, have been accused of demanding “protection money” from businesses. Some of their colleagues in the north are said to have carried out atrocities or looting after re-taking mostly Sunni areas around Tikrit.
Senior militia figures, unsurprisingly, deny such claims. I met Sheikh Abu Samir al-Mayahi, who leads the Basra operations of the powerful Badr Organization, outside its well-fortified local headquarters on the city’s outskirts. Billboards on most street corners implored young men to join up, saying “Will you sacrifice your soul to defend our country and our holy places?”
The authorities in Baghdad aren’t blind to the dangers of untrammeled militia power. In an effort to coopt them and maintain a veneer of state control, most have been incorporated into the official Popular Crowd Authority. They now have an authorized chain of command and a set budget of $830 million for 2015....

There are plans afoot, too, to merge many of the militias into the security forces, or into a new national guard. With the prospect of increased official recognition, some militias appear to have toned down their rhetoric and made moves to recruit small numbers of Sunni fighters.

But, keen to keep some personnel to preside over their private operations, they’re unlikely to commit their full manpower to the government forces, says Jiyad, the UK and Iraq-based analyst. “What will happen is that some of the more powerful militia groups will allow 70-80% of their fighters to go into the state, to be part of the army, but they’ll request that 20-30% of their guys stay to preserve their identity and to man their bases,” he said.

And for as long as the militias preserve a measure of independence, some analysts believe they’ll remain a vehicle for hardline elements within the Iranian military to retain their influence in Baghdad.
The militias’ operational head, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, was listed as a “specially designated global terrorist” by the US after he spearheaded some of the deadliest assaults on US troops after the invasion. “He’s basically a fully paid up member of the Revolutionary Guard in Iran,” said Michael Knights, an Iraq expert and fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Do you want a new permanent armed force in Iraq led by a US designated global terrorist that does not perhaps answer to the national command structure and that has an intimate relationship with the intelligence services of the neighboring country?”

Militiamen themselves are somewhat divided as to what their post-ISIL role ought to be. “The Iraqi army will be in charge of the borders, we and police will keep the peace in the cities,” said Bilal Ahmed. Higher-ranking officials are often more circumspect. “We are a political organization. We will go back to building people in Iraq,” Badr’s Sheikh al-Mayahi said.
-bth: this is an excellent article on the Shia militias and worth reading in full.

Basra and Kut officially call for semi-independent regions -Rudaw

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The southern Iraqi provinces of Basra and Wasit have officially called on Baghdad to recognize them as semi-autonomous regions, giving the regions similar rights as the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Mohammad Osman, a member of the region and provinces committees for the Iraqi Cabinet, told Rudaw.

“Until now, the provinces of Basra and Wasit have officially called on the Iraqi government for self-governance and being independent from Baghdad just like the Kurdistan Region, which has its own government and parliament,” Osman said.

He added that upon the request of Wasit officials, his committee visited the main Wasit city of Kut to follow up on the claims.

“We will be visiting other cities in Iraq to follow up on their requests, because according to the Iraqi constitution, each Iraqi province and some provinces together can call for independent regions and self-governance within Iraq,” Osman told Rudaw.

Turkey Wants to Open Consulate Offices in Kirkuk and Basra - BasNews

The Turkish Ambassador to Iraq has discussed the opening of Turkish consulates in Kirkuk and Basra in southern Iraq, with the Iraqi Foreign Minister.

According to a statement released by the Iraqi Foreign Minister’s office, on Wednesday May 20th, , Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari met with the Turkish Ambassador to Iraq Faruk Kaymakcı and discussed the security and political situations in Iraq as well as the diplomatic relations between Iraq and Turkey.

Al-Jaafari has declared that the neighbouring countries’ military support is vital for Iraq to confront and defeat the Islamic State (IS) militants....
-bth: the underlying narrative is that Turkey wants to hedge its bets and put consulates in what it believes will be the two remaining power regions in what was formerly Iraq: Kirkuk and Basra.  Conversely Iraqi government does not want this because it wants Turkey to channel its diplomacy through Baghdad and not end run the national government and it also wants military support from Turkey which seems unlikely under the circumstances.

Iraq targets record Basra crude exports in June with new grade

Iraq plans to export a record volume of crude from its southern ports in June, as it splits its production into two grades for the first time to resolve quality issues, trade sources familiar with the matter said.
The No 2 Opec producer has allocated 3.1 million barrels per day (mbpd) of Basra crude to buyers in a preliminary June loading programme, up from the usual monthly total of between 2.6 million and 2.7 mbpd, they said....
-bth: It is interesting to note that with all the publicity about the fall of Ramadi, Iraq is exporting oil at a record rate.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Saddam Hussein's Nephew Ibrahim Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan Dies: Reports - NBC

Saddam Hussein's nephew was killed in a battle against pro-government forces in Iraq, according to the Baath Party and ISIS supporters.
NBC News was not immediately able to independently confirm the reports. Iraq's government did not comment.
Ibrahim Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan was the son of the late dictator's half-brother, a feared intelligence chief who died from cancer in 2013.
ISIS supporters posted images purporting to show al-Hassan late Tuesday and claimed he had died fighting for the militant group against Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shiite militias near Baiji, which is home to a key oil installation. ...

Map from Ramadi to Baghdad May 19, 2015

Ramadi's Demise May Mean Pending Water Wars in Iraq

Key Points
  • This week Ramadi fell to IS forces perhaps permanently.
  • Ramadi is key to resupplying Iraqi government's remaining positions west of Ramadi which includes the Haditha Dam.  Unless it is reopened it is unlikely that supplies will be able to reach key locations to the west.
  • When the Haditha Dam falls to IS forces it will give them control of water feeding downstream Shia territories with potentially devastating consequences.
“In the struggle to retain Ramadi, the city had become a symbol of joint Iraqi army-Sunni tribal resistance, the [Institute for the Study of War] said.
“The fall of the city thus represents a major blow to the security of Iraq in general and of Anbar Province in particular,” the report said. “Ramadi strengthens ISIS’s military posture in western Iraq and places ISIS in a position to dictate the terms of battle elsewhere in Anbar province. ISIS’s presence in Ramadi severs supply lines connecting Baghdad to ISF-controlled districts in western Anbar, such as Haditha, the Haditha Dam, and al Asad Airbase, which houses U.S. personnel, making them more susceptible to attacks by ISIS.”

Read more:
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Water expert Hassan al-Janabi warned the Iraqi government of the consequences if ISIS seizes the Haditha Dam, saying that this would be a major disaster for the areas of the center and the south. 
Jannabi told Al-Akhbar, “The Haditha Dam is the second largest dam in Iraq after the Mosul Dam. It is located on the Upper Euphrates basin, and has a storage capacity of 8.3 billion cubic meters and a storage area of 503 square kilometers. It has six radial gates that regulate the flow of water through the dam.” 
Jannabi continued, “The disaster is that if ISIS seizes the dam it would fully control the Euphrates River by controlling the dam’s water output. We fear ISIS would do what it had done with the Fallujah Dam, which it had closed fully, cutting off water from the center and the south, and flooding vast areas from Fallujah all the way to Abu Ghraib on the outskirts of Baghdad.” 
The Euphrates emerges again out of the gates of the Haditha dam into Ramadi then Fallujah, before making its way to central Iraq, where it flows to the cities of the Babel province, then Karbala, Najaf, Qadisiyah, Samawah, and Nasiriyah, passing through Basra, before reaching Shatt al-Arab in the far south of Iraq. 
Following this path, the Euphrates traverses seven provinces in central and southern Iraq, which happen to be majority-Shia areas. These regions rely completely on the river, especially given the high salinity of the groundwater in those areas, making it difficult to process for drinking and cooking purposes in particular.In light of Haditha’s strategic importance, a number of political and security experts have called on the government to send reinforcements to the area and work on retaking the Hīt district, to allow supply routes to reconnect to the city of Ramadi.
Political analyst Aref al-Darraji called on the government and the general command of the armed forces to act quickly to lift the siege on the Haditha district and liberate Hīt. Darraji said, “ISIS’ control of Haditha and its dam would spell certain death for the people of the center and the south, because all reports indicate the group intends to close down the gates completely and stop the flow of the Euphrates, which would completely dry up more than seven governorates.”


ISIS controls all border crossings between Syria and Iraq

Capturing the ancient city of Palmyra (Tadmur in Arabic) and valuable nearby gas fields was just part of the gains of ISIS across Syria, which have now reached the point that the “caliphate” includes more than half of Syria’s territory.
 Indeed, ISIS seems to be making gains across both Syria and Iraq, taking the major Iraqi city of Ramadi yesterday, and then seizing the al-Waleed border crossing, the last crossing between Iraq and Syria that they didn’t already hold.
This means that effectively Syria doesn’t have a common border with Iraq anymore, and with similar losses to al-Qaeda further south, doesn’t have much of a border left with Jordan either...

-bth: the implication of this is that ISIS can now block all land commerce or charge a transit fee.  Combine this with their positions along the Jordan border and you can see the emergence of a real nation-state border with all that implies.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Human heart and matters of war

"The human heart is the starting point in all matters pertaining to war"
Marshal de Saxe

How is Iraq getting petrol if the Baiji refinery is off line?

With the ownership of the Baiji refinery in great dispute and its operational capacity reduced by fighting between the Iraqi government and ISIL forces, what is happening to petrol supplies and prices. 

From what I've been able to gather the price of petrol in ISIL controlled territory is about double those  elsewhere in Iraq.

So if Baiji was such a big supplier of refined petroleum in the region and the Iranians are short on refined petrol as well, despite efforts to accelerate the production capacity, where is the gasoline coming from to fill the production deficiency created by Baiji?

It appears to be coming from UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The chronic outages at Baiji and elsewhere in the region have not been covered by capacity increases, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Paris-based energy think tank.
   The additional regional production is mainly coming from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, with a total of more than 800,000 bpd being added.
   The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) last month began to divert the supply of its main crude grade, Murban, from Asian customers to its expanded plant at Ruwais, which lies about 180km west of the capital. The addition at Ruwais is estimated to be 417,000 bpd.
   Saudi domestic refinery runs are expected to have increased in March as production ramped up at a 400,000 bpd plant at Yanbu, the Red Sea port city.
   The plant is a joint venture with the China National Petroleum Company.
   The IEA said that Saudi demand for refined products is also rising as domestic power plants begin to burn more crude with peak summer demand approaching.