Thursday, July 31, 2014

Budget Restraints On Kurdish Peshmerga Making It Difficult To Secure Iraq’s Disputed Territories

 
The Kurdish Peshmerga are in a tense standoff with the Islamic State across northern Iraq. When the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) collapsed after the fall of Mosul the Peshmerga moved into the disputed territories that had been abandoned by the police and army. One such place was Jalawla in Diyala, which locals had complained about for years as being an insurgent hotbed. The Kurdish forces have tried to clear the area, but they have been constrained by budget problems.
The Peshmerga have tried to secure Jalawla but have not been able to because of budgetary constraints (NY Times)

The Peshmerga have found it difficult to secure Jalawla, because they don’t have the money to sustain their efforts. June 12 as the insurgents swept across northern Iraq and the Iraqi security forces melted away the Kurds moved into Jalawla, which they had longed claimed as historically part of Kurdistan. Kurds had been targets of militants there for years. Just before the fighting started in Mosul for example the Islamic State (IS) launched a car bomb and suicide bomber against the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan offices in the city killing 20 and wounding 66. Then when the Peshmerga moved in they immediately got into gunfights with the IS starting on June 13. According to press reports at least 47 Peshmerga have been killed in Jalawla and another 90 wounded along with several civilians since then. That caused around 200 families to flee the area to escape the violence. July 24 the district director claimed that two areas had been cleared, but the Kurdish forces could only stay there for a few hours because they ran out of ammunition. Three days later it was reported that IS fighters were infiltrating back in. The quick security operation and then withdrawal from Jalawla was caused by the budgetary crisis that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is suffering from. In January Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki withheld the regions’ share of the national budget to punish it for its independent oil policy. While the regional government has received some loans and two months worth of salaries from Baghdad since then it still does not have enough funds to cover its sizeable costs. That has impacted the security forces as they must now cover a much larger territory and expend more money on supplies and equipment. As one Peshmerga commander told the Washington Post his unit was only allowed to fire upon insurgents if they were shot at first because they had to save ammunition. The effect has been that the Peshmerga are able to hold their current positions, but they are not be able to carry out any kind of sustained operations past that line, which is why Jalawla is still so violent.
Peshmerga firing rockets into insurgent positions in Jalawla June 14, 2014 (AFP)

Both the central and regional government are facing a growing threat from the insurgency, but their political disputes are keeping them from cooperating. The two sides should be working together to help secure the country and take back all the territory that has been lost since June. Instead, the Kurdish parties and Premier Maliki are still arguing over oil, the budget, and the prime minister’s attempt at a third term. The result is that the militants have been able to solidify their hold upon the territory they conquered and threaten places like Jalawla. This is just the latest sign that the political elite is more interested in their petty disputes than the welfare of the country. Not even the de facto division of the country has been able to overcome these divisions and the people are suffering for it.

SOURCES

AIN, "2 Peshmerga officers killed, injured northeast Baquba," 7/15/14
- "3 ISIL elements killed northeastern Baquba," 6/18/14
- "5 Peshmerga elements killed, injured northeastern Baquba," 7/19/14
- "7 Peshmerga elements killed, injured northeastern Baquba," 6/29/14

Alsumaria, “The displacement of nearly 200 families from the neighborhood South Jalawla controlled by “Daash,”” 7/16/14
- “Jalawla announce its purge of the armed groups,” 7/24/14
- "Prominent sniper of Naqshbandi killed and wounding of three Peshmerga in clashes northeast of Baquba," 7/13/14

Associated Press, "Double bombing at party office kills 19 in Iraq," 6/8/14
- "Iraq fights militants as foreigners feared seized," 6/18/14

Buratha News, "The killing of three Daash rats and martyrdom of one of the elements of the Peshmerga in clashes northeast of Baquba," 7/5/14
- "Martyrdom and wounding five of the Peshmerga and killed six Daash terrorists in clashes in Jalawla," 7/17/14
- "Violent clashes between the Peshmerga and Daash terrorist in Jalawla," 6/13/14

Iraq Times, "martyrdom of 4 Peshmerga and the killing of eight Daash in military operations south of Jalawla," 7/12/14

Morris, Loveday, “Iraq’s Kurds want U.S. help to hold off Islamic State extremists,” Washington Post, 7/24/14

NINA, "20 people killed, 40 injured in the bombings targeted PUK headquarters in Baquba," 6/8/14
- "Four elements of Peshmerga and Sahwa forces wounded in Diyala," 7/16/14
- "Two Peshmerga killed, three others injured in a roadside bomb in Northeast of Baquba," 7/28/14

Al Rayy, "3 of the Peshmerga injured by a roadside bomb north of Baquba," 7/2/14
- "Martyrdom and wounding 12 people in a car bomb attack on a Peshmerga police station in Jalawla," 7/27/14
- "Martyrdom and wounding six of the Peshmerga in suicide attack and the bombing of a bridge between Diyala and Sulaymaniyah," 6/23/14
- "Security forces kill four Daash and killed two Peshmerga in clashes amid Jalawla," 7/6/14
- “A security source reveals the infiltration of some Daash elements in the alleys of Jalawla Baquba,” 7/27/14

Rudaw, “ISIS Shelling Kurdish Peshmerga-controlled Areas South of Kirkuk,” 6/12/14
- "Peshmerga Fight in Jalawla, as Iraqi Army Tries to Retake Tikrit," 7/5/14
- "Peshmerga Suffering Losses against ISIS," 7/26/14

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pressure Grows On Iraq’s Premier Maliki To Give Up On A Third Term

 
Iraq’s politicians have taken some important steps towards forming a new government. A speaker of parliament and a new president were elected in July 2014. Now President Fuad Masum must pick a candidate for prime minister from the largest bloc in parliament, which is the National Alliance (NA) made up of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law (SOL), the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq’s Citizen’s Alliance, Moqtada al-Sadr’s Ahrar bloc, and Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s National Reform Trend. That’s the last major barrier as Premier Maliki has refused to step aside despite opposition from within the NA, his own State of Law, the religious establishment in Najaf, and Iran.
New Iraqi President Masum is waiting for the National Alliance to name its candidate for premier. Will it be Maliki, another figure from State of Law or a politician from another list within the coalition? (Al Arabiya)

In mid-July a new speaker of parliament and president of Iraq were elected. On July 15, Salim Jabouri of Mutahidun was elected the new speaker, with Haidar Abadi of State of Law his first deputy and Aram Sheikh Mohammed of the Change List his second deputy. It took two rounds of balloting to select Abadi as he was challenged by Ahmed Chalabi who was elected to parliament as part of the Citizen’s Alliance. Chalabi did not actually desire the position, but wanted to make a point that Maliki could be stopped from being elected to a third term by his opponents. Then after some internal divisions within the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) were overcome Fuad Masum was elected the new president of Iraq on July 24. This was a break from former elections when the speaker, president and premier were all part of a package deal worked out by the winning lists. That was impossible this year since Maliki insisted that he be the candidate for prime minister, while his critics within the NA could not agree upon an alternative. What did hold was the ethnosectarian quota system with a Sunni becoming speaker and a Kurd being president. Likewise the premiership will remain with the Shiite parties.

Maliki is trying to wait out his opponents like he did in 2010, but there is more writing on the wall each week that he will not be able to hold onto power. Moqtada al-Sadr’s Ahrar bloc and the Supreme Council’s Citizen’s Alliance ran against the prime minister and have continued to demand that his State of Law replace him. Both Ahrar and Citizen’s said they had their own candidates such as former vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi, Ahmed Chalabi, and ex-Finance Minister Bayan Jabr, and that State of Law had alternatives like Maliki adviser Tariq Najm, Deputy Premier Hussein Shahristani and Transportation Minister Hadi Ameri, but could not move forward as long as Maliki demanded to remain in office showing the divisions within the National Alliance. The Najaf clergy has become more and more vocal against the prime minister. July 16 Sheikh Ali Najafi the spokesman for his father Ayatollah Bashir al-Najafi said that a new government needed to be formed quickly without Maliki to solve the on going crisis in the country. July 25 during Friday prayers Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani released a statement that Iraq’s leaders should not “cling” to power obviously referring to Maliki. Third, Iran has apparently come out against the premier’s third term. According to the Associate Press, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force General Qasim Suleimani talked with Maliki about stepping down, but he refused. Last splits have arisen within State of Law as well. After Sistani’s remarks the prime minister’s own Dawa Party said that it would follow the Ayatollah’s guidance. July 28 ISCI’s Buratha News reported that the Badr Organization left State of Law because of Maliki’s obstinacy. SOL has responded to all of these attacks by claiming that since it won the most seats it therefore has the right to pick the next premier. Maliki even went to the courts trying to get them to declare State of Law not the National Alliance as the largest bloc in parliament and thus giving it the sole right to name the premiership, but he was turned down. In 2010 the victorious parties took ten months to put together a new ruling coalition. Maliki dragged out the process and brought the courts, Tehran, and Washington eventually to his side. The Supreme Court for example ruled that the party that was able to put together the largest alliance after the election not the one that won the most votes had the right to name the candidate for premier. This has now come back to haunt Maliki as it makes his claim that the SOL’s victory in the polls gives him the right to stay in office invalid. Instead it is up to the divided NA to make that decision. His opponents within the coalition now have the backing of Najaf and Tehran if the AP story is correct. The latter was instrumental in ensuring Maliki a 2nd term after the last elections, but the Iranians may now seem him as a source of instability and want him out. Finally State of Law has lost its internal cohesion. The report about Badr leaving SOL may not be true, but there is definitely dissension within its ranks. The Iraqi elite is still not following the timetable laid out in the law to form a new government, but it is making slow progress as the election of Jabouri and Masum show. That means the final step of naming a candidate for prime minister may occur sooner rather than later as Maliki’s support is being worn down.

Nouri al-Maliki was the resounding winner in the 2014 elections, but that does not assure him staying in power. Ibrahim Jaafari became premier in 2005 not because his Dawa party won the most votes, but because it was part of the largest bloc the United Iraqi Alliance. Maliki was named prime minister in 2006, because the U.S. and others had lost confidence in Jaafari with the escalating civil war. Again, his Dawa was not the largest party, but he was chosen within the United Alliance as a compromise candidate. In 2010 the Iraqi National Movement won the most seats, but thanks to the Supreme Court ruling Maliki was able to put together the largest coalition after the voting and win a 2nd term. Coming out victorious in 2014 was therefore an important step for Maliki, but not the final word. Immediately after the election it looked like he had the momentum, but then the insurgent summer offensive came and most of northern Iraq fell, and the prime minister’s star began to fall as more and more groups from Najaf to Iran added their voices calling for him to step down. This whole process still has minutes left on the clock, but they are counting down for Maliki.

SOURCES

Abbas, Mohammed, “Iraqi Shiite cleric tells AFP: PM Maliki must go,” Agence France Presse, 7/16/14

Abdul-Zahra, Qassim Salama, Vivian, “Talabani ally is Iraqi Kurds presidential choice,” Associated Press, 7/23/14

Associated Press, “Iraq elects new president as attacks kill dozens,” 7/24/14
- “Iraqi cleric urges leaders not to ‘cling’ to power,” 7/25/14

Buratha News, “After news of its withdrawal from the state of law coalition….Badr Organization declares its commitment to the decision of the National Alliance for the prime minister post,” 7/28/14
- “Ibrahim al-Jaafari:: National Alliance is the largest parliamentary bloc, not the rule of law we have all started and announced that,” 7/27/14

Independent Press Agency, “Bayraktar: deny the issuance of a new resolution concerning the largest parliamentary bloc,” 7/24/14

Al Mada, “Differences within Maliki’s bloc: Will the call bring together more than one candidate for premier?” 7/19/14
- “Liberals and the Council: our deal with al-Maliki to withdraw and his replacement a condition that has been accepted by National Alliance,” 7/17/14

Al Masalah, “Dawa Party renews its commitment under the guidance of reference and timings of the constitution on forming of government,” 7/26/14
- “State of Law: Maliki, the only candidate for prime minister,” 7/17/14

Visser, Reidar, “The Iraqi Parliament Elects Its New Speakership,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 7/15/14

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Iraq’s Southern Oil Industry Untouched By Insurgency But Technical Problems Continue


While several small oil fields have fallen under the control of the Islamic State in northern Iraq the vast majority of the country’s reserves reside in the south and have been unaffected. In fact, new infrastructure recently opened that expanded the capacity for southern exports. That doesn’t mean output can’t continue to fluctuate like it always has. In June 2014 exports were down from May due to technical issues and an accident.  

Problems with docking tankers were the main reason why June exports decreased. Last month Iraq exported 2.423 million barrels a day compared to 2.582 million barrels in May. All of this output went through the southern Basra pipeline. There were troubles with docking tankers at the Basra and Khor Amaya oil terminals along with a tanker hitting a mooring point that temporarily took it off line. This was the third lowest output of the year after March’s 2.396 million and January’s 2.228. 

Iraq Oil Exports And Profits 2011-2013
Month
Avg.
Exports
(Mil/
Bar/
Day)
Avg. Price Per Barrel
Revenue (Bill)
Jan. 11
2.16
$90.78
$6.082
Feb.
2.20
$98.44
$6.064
Mar.
2.15
$107.13
$7.167
Apr.
2.14
$114.26
$7.342
May
2.22
$108
$7.47
Jun.
2.27
$105.17
$7.173
Jul.
2.16
$108.79
$7.311
Aug.
2.18
$104.91
$7.124
Sep.
2.10
$104.89
$6.619
Oct.
2.08
$104.04
$6.742
Nov.
2.13
$106.59
$6.833
Dec.
2.14
$106.18
$7.061
2011 Avg.
2.16
$105.00
$6.913
Jan. 12
2.10
$109.08
$7.123
Feb.
2.01
$112.92
$6.595
Mar.
2.31
$117.99
$8.472
Apr.
2.50
$116.79
$8.795
May
2.45
$103.03
$8
Jun.
2.40
$90.09
$6.453
Jul.
2.51
$97.14
$7.577
Aug.
2.56
$106.22
$8.445
Sep.
2.59
$107.59
$8.371
Oct.
2.62
$105.51
$8.578
Nov.
2.62
$104.32
$8.200
Dec.
2.34
$103.72
$7.551
2012
Avg.
2.41
$106.20
$7.846
Jan. 13
2.35
$104.92
$7.672
Feb.
2.53
$107.66
$7.644
Mar.
2.41
$103.76
$7.772
Apr.
2.62
$98.70
$7.764
May
2.48
$97.23
$7.477
Jun.
2.32
$97.40
$6.799
Jul.
2.32
$101.00
$7.272
Aug.
2.57
$104.45
$8.356
Sep.
2.07
$104.87
$6.511
Oct.
2.25
$102.57
$7.160
Nov.
2.381
$102.57
$7.324
Dec.
2.341
$102.89
$7.470
2013 Avg.
2.386
$102.33
$7.435
Jan. 14
2.228
$102.37
$6.454
Feb
2.799
$102.05
$7.159
Mar
2.396
$101.03
$7.429
Apr
2.509
$100.69
$7.582
May
2.582
$100.69
$8.077
June
2.423
$102.61
$7.47

Oil Exports Through Basra 2012-2013
January 2012 1.711 mil/bar/day
February 1.639 mil/bar/day
March 1.917 mil/bar/day
April 2.115 mil/bar/day
May 2.086 mil/bar/day
June 2.085 mil/bar/day
July 2.216 mil/bar/day
August 2.252 mil/bar/day
September 2.178 mil/bar/day
October 2.172 mil/bar/day
November 2.122 mil/bar/day
December 2.022 mil/bar/day
2012 Avg. 2.042 mil/bar/day
January 2013 2.093 mil/bar/day
February 2.196 mil/bar/day
March 2.1 mil/bar/day
April 2.31 mil/bar/day
May 2.19 mil/bar/day
June 2.13 mil/bar/day
July 2.32 mil/bar/day
August 2.30 mil/bar/day
September 1.90 mil/bar/day
October 2.06 mil/bar/day
November 2.281 mil/bar/day
December 2.081 mil/bar/day
2013 Avg. 2.16 mil/bar/day
January 2014 2.036 mil/bar/day
February 2.507 mil/bar/day
March 2.370 mil/bar/day
April 2.509 mil/bar/day
May 2.582 mil/bar/day
June 2.423 mil/bar/day

Oil Exports Through Kirkuk 2012-2013
January 2012 393,500 bar/day
February 375,800 bar/day
March 400,000 bar/day
April 393,300 bar/day
May 364,500 bar/day
June 316,600 bar/day
July 300,000 bar/day
August 312,900 bar/day
September 420,000 bar/day
October 451,600 bar/day
November 426,600 bar/day
December 325,800 bar/day
2012 Avg. 373,300 bar/day
January 2013 264,500 bar/day
February 339,200 bar/day
March 316,100 bar/day
April 306,600 bar/day
May 283,800 bar/day
June 193,300 bar/day
July 180,600 bar/day
August 270,900 bar/day
September 250,000 bar/day
October 193,000 bar/day
November 309,00 bar/day
December 260,000 bar/day
2013 Avg. 264,200 bar/day
January 2014 192,000 bar/day
February 292,000 bar/day
March 25,806 bar/day
April 0 bar/day
May 0 bar/day
June 0 bar/day

At the same time capacity at the southern ports just expanded. At the beginning of June a third single mooring point opened. That went along with a new metering platform that started working in May. The mooring points can’t all operate at the same time right now, but it does mean that there can be uninterrupted loading of tankers while repair and other work is being done, which has cut exports in the past. A fourth platform is scheduled to come on line by the end of the year. With the current added capacity Oil Minister Abdul Karim Luaibi announced in mid-July that production was around 3.15 million barrels and exports were over 2.6 million. The opening of the new mooring points come just as Rumaila, West Qurna 1 and 2, Zubayr, Halfaya, and Badra fields are expected to increase their output. This added production and capacity would help make up for the loss of the Kirkuk pipeline, which was knocked out of commission in March by an insurgent attack, and now mostly lies in militant hands.

Ironically the summer insurgent offensive has raised oil prices. In June Iraqi crude sold for $102.61 per barrel, up from $100 per barrel in April and May. June was the highest price since December 2013’s $102.89. Iraq earned $7.47 billion in June as a result. That was down from May’s $8.077 billion however, because oil exports dropped. The continued fighting in Iraq and other unrest in the Middle East will likely keep crude prices up.

The Oil Ministry is hoping that its exports will rebound in July. Early figures show that’s already happening. That doesn’t mean technical problems wont continue to occur in the future leading exports to fluctuate again. It can only be hoped that overall exports grow over the long run and oil prices stay at $100 per barrel or more since Baghdad needs as much money as it can get right now to pay for its on going security and refugee crisis.

SOURCES

Iraq, Ali Abu, Lando, Ben, “Besieged Iraqi oil sector buoyed by southern expansion,” Iraq Oil Report, 7/20/14

Lando, Ben, “Iraq oil exports drop in June,” Iraq Oil Report, 7/9/14
- “New Gulf infrastructure opens up export growth,” Iraq Oil Report, 6/4/14

Lando, Ben, Al-Najaf, Kamaran, “Iraqi exports rebound despite loss of northern pipeline,” Iraq Oil Report, 5/4/14

New Sabah, “”Oil” launches a new floating platform capacity of 800 thousand barrels per day,” 6/2/14

Republic of Iraq Ministry of Oil, “Iraq Crude Oil Exports – June 2014,” 7/24/14

Salaheddin, Sinan, “Iraq says crude oil exports rise slightly in May,” Associated Press, 6/1/14

Ynewsiq, “Decline in oil exports to 2.423 million barrels per day,” 7/3/14

Mosul Campaign day 224 May 28 2017

Federal Police officer firing an RPG in west Mosul (Reuters) The second day of the new push on west Mosul brought mixed successes. ...