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Are Our Mideast Wars Forever?

Are Our Mideast Wars Forever?

“The Kurds have no friends but the mountains,” is an old lament. Last week, it must have been very much on Kurdish minds.

As their U.S. allies watched, the Kurdish peshmerga fighters were run out of Kirkuk and all the territory they had captured fighting ISIS alongside the Americans. The Iraqi army that ran them out was trained and armed by the United States.

The U.S. had warned the Kurds against holding the referendum on independence on Sept. 25, which carried with 92 percent. Iran and Turkey had warned against an independent Kurdistan that could be a magnet for Kurdish minorities in their own countries.

But the Iraqi Kurds went ahead. Now they have lost Kirkuk and its oil, and their dream of independence is all but dead.

More troubling for America is the new reality revealed by the rout of the peshmerga. Iraq, which George W. Bush and the neocons were going to fashion into a pro-Western democracy and American ally, appears to be as close to Iran as it is to the United States.

After 4,500 U.S. dead, scores of thousands wounded and a trillion dollars sunk, our 15-year war in Iraq could end with a Shiite-dominated Baghdad aligned with Tehran.

With that grim prospect in mind, Secretary Rex Tillerson said Sunday, “Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against … ISIS is coming to a close … need to go home. Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home.”

Tillerson meant Iran’s Quds Force in Iraq should go home, and the Shiite militia in Iraq should be conscripted into the army.

But what if the Baghdad regime of Haider al-Abadi does not agree? What if the Quds Force does not go home to Iran and the Shiite militias that helped retake Kirkuk refuse to enlist in the Iraqi army?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Iran’s Top General Meets With Kurdish President Barzani As U.S. Neocons Push For War

Iran’s Top General Meets With Kurdish President Barzani As U.S. Neocons Push For War

In an unexpected diplomatic turn of events which underscores the seriousness of escalating tensions between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard (which last week were designated by the US as a terrorist organization), General Qassem Soleimani, arrived in Erbil on Sunday and met with Kurdistan regional president Masoud Barzani to discuss the growing crisis at a moment when Kurdish Peshmerga forces are blocking Iraqi Army access to Kirkuk oil fields and military installations.

Major General Qassem Soleimani reports directly to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and his elite force provides training and weapons to Iraqi paramilitary groups (PMU or Popular Mobilization Units) backing the Baghdad government. The meeting comes just after President Trump announced his new policy against Iran on Friday that includes designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization.

Though the Unites States officially backs the Iran-aligned Baghdad government in the Kurdistan crisis, Trump’s speech could signal a monumental shift in policy for Iraq. This as Kurdistan officials and media are highlighting Iran’s role in attempting to stamp out the Kurdish move for independence.


Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani

As we previously explained, last month’s Kurdistan referendum pushed Iraq into the arms of Iran when the relationship between Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Abadi and Iranian officials was at its lowest level. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (and perhaps most Iraqis) now sees in Iran the only legitimate and sincere partner Iraq can count on, and can rely on the Iranian Army and the IRGC in the case of any broader military escalation against Kurdistan, particularly in the disputed Iraqi cities, with Kirkuk now topping the list.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Kurdish Referendum Roils the Mideast

Kurdish Referendum Roils the Mideast

The Kurdish referendum seeking independence from Iraq has created more uncertainty in the turbulent Mideast with Israel appearing to see value in the new chaos, reports ex-British diplomat Alastair Crooke.


One week after Kurdish leader Masud Barzani held his referendum on Kurdish independence from Iraq (with both the referendum and independence being contrary to the Iraqi constitution), the blowback has been fierce, angry and almost universal.

A map showing how Kurdish “territory” spills over into several Mideast nations.

What may have been conceived as a clever ploy by Masud’s eldest son, Masrour, to bolster the Barzani family’s flagging popularity by posing as a nationalist leader looks increasingly like a misstep. (Michel Rubin of AEI, has noted that “some [U.S.] Congressional staff and leaders with whom [Masrour] has met, came away from their meeting convinced that Masrour sought independence more to be heir apparent, in what will become hereditary [Kurdish] leadership, than out of sincere nationalistic concerns.”)

And now, presidential and parliamentary elections — hastily called in the wake of the Oct. 3 death of former Iraqi President and Kurdish political leader Jalal Talibani — have descended into a mess. Rather than settle “the succession” upon his eldest son, Masud Barzani may instead have opened a wider struggle over leadership of the Kurdish people.

Yes, the KRG is reported as being a democracy, but in practice it is run, explains, Michael Rubin, as a (corrupt) family enterprise in which “both the Barzanis (and Talabanis) confuse personal, party, and public funds.” Rubin explains: “Masud Barzani is president and lives in a palace complex in a resort inherited from Saddam Hussein. His nephew, Nechirvan Barzani, is prime minister. His uncle, Hoshyar Zebari, was Iraq’s foreign minister and is now finance minister. Masud’s eldest son, Masrour Barzani, leads the intelligence service; and his second son, Mansour is a general, as is Masud’s brother Wajy.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Iran, Iraq, And Turkey Unite To Block Kurdish Oil Exports

Iran, Iraq, And Turkey Unite To Block Kurdish Oil Exports

Oil

Iraq, Iran, and Turkey are taking a unified stance against Kurdistan’s oil sector after the region elected to seek independence from Baghdad in a referendum in September, according to a new report by Rudaw.

“In the case of northern Iraq, Iran, Iraq and Turkey will form a tripartite mechanism and will decide on shutting down the oil,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after a meeting with leaders from the other two nations on Thursday.

day before the vote, the Iraqi central government issued a statement calling on “neighboring countries and countries of the world” to stop buying crude oil directly from Kurdistan and only deal with Baghdad.

Turkey’s Ceyhan port provides an outlet for the Kurdish Kirkuk oil to meet international markets without interference from Baghdad. Erdogan, Tehran and other members of the international community had censured Erbil for proceeding with the independence referendum as Iraq recovers from a three-year war against the Islamic State (ISIS). The Turkish leader had previously threatened to cut Kirkuk off from Ceyhan, but did not provide details on how such a measure would be carried out.

Russia’s oil majors side with Kurdistan in its quest for an independent fossil fuel establishment. Rosneft signed off on a $1 billion gas pipeline deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) a week prior to the historic vote, signaling Moscow’s approval of a hypothetically separate Kurdistan. Related: The Trillion Dollar Market That Stopped Chasing Profits

Both Iran and Turkey house sizeable Kurdish populations, so the referendum raises fears that Kurds from other nations may seek similar political solutions.

Kurdistan produces around 600,000 bpd of crude oil, or about 15 percent of Iraq’s total output. After the votes were counted, the KRG said that the ‘Yes’ to independence option won at the polls, with 92.73 percent of voters opting to grant Erbil its own regime.

 

Iran Deploys Tanks To Border With Iraqi Kurdistan

Iran Deploys Tanks To Border With Iraqi Kurdistan

Days before last week’s Kurdistan referendum, Iran took steps to isolate and punish the Iraqi Kurdistan region and the government in Erbil (KRG). This included closing Iranian airspace to northern Iraq’s two international airports and sending Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard forces to conduct drills along the northwest border with Kurdistan, but in the early hours of Monday Iran dramatically escalated its military build-up along the border by deploying dozens of tanks supported by artillery – this according to a Kurdish government official and Iranian state television.

The Kurdish official confirmed the tank build-up, saying “The tanks can be seen from the Kurdish side.” And Iranian state TV on Saturday indicated that Iran and Iraq would cooperate in joint drills and the establishment of heightened border security, to the point that Iran would “receive Iraqi forces that are to be stationed at border posts”.


|ian military drill on Kurdistan Region border (Haji Omaran Crossing Border) despite business being conducted as usual.


Iranian government officials had warned just prior to last week’s referendum that, “The republic of Iran has opened its legitimate border gates on the premise of the consent of the federal government of the Iraqi state. If such an event [referendum] happens, these border gates from the perspective of the Islamic Republic of Iran would lose its legitimacy.” It appears Iran is now making good on its threats as it worries that an independent Kurdistan at its border would be a destabilizing force concerning Iran’s own sizable Kurdish minority.

Last week multiple videos and images surfaced in Iranian social media purporting to show Iranian state police and security forces deploying to the Kurdish towns in Iran’s north. Multiple reports indicate pro-Kurdistan demonstrations took place in various Kurdish Iranian towns in response to the Erbil government’s referendum, something strictly banned and thus a rarity in the Islamic Republic.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

OPEC’s No. 2 Faces Civil War Threat

OPEC’s No. 2 Faces Civil War Threat

Iraq

Tribal violence in the southern regions of Iraq is erupting on sectarian lines, threatening safety and security at oil facilities, officials told Kurdistan24.

A majority of Iraq’s law enforcement network has congregated in the northern and western portions of the country to contain the efforts of the Islamic State to restart the reign of its illicit organization, giving Shia and Sunni the leeway to reignite previous rivalries.

“We need larger forces to control rural areas and restrain lawless tribes in the south,” Army Lieutenant Colonel Salah Kareem said. “This is a difficult job for now as most troops are busy with fighting [IS].”

The religious disputes turn legal as members quarrel over farmland, construction contracts, and other land ownership issues, security courses said. The net impact of the disagreements disrupts Baghdad’s efforts to bring new investments to the oil and gas sector in areas affected by three years of domestic strife.

Stable oil output from Basra is key to Baghdad’s wealth, which accounts for 95 percent of the government’s revenues. Recent encroachments on the peace in the area have jeopardized key oil facilities on the northern and westerns sides of the city.

“Tribal feuds have been exacerbating recently, and such a negative development could threaten the operations of the foreign energy companies,” Ali Shaddad, the head of Basra’s oil and gas committee on the provincial council, said.

South Oil Company (SOC), responsible for fossil fuel development in Basra, says foreign companies and workers have begun to refuse working in the area due to the growing violence.

“Tribal fighting near oilfields sites is definitely affecting the energy operations and sending a negative message to foreign oil firms,” Abdullah al-Faris at SOC said. Groups in the area seized heavy weaponry from Saddam Hussein’s army back when the dictator’s regime collapsed in 2003. The presence of these military-grade guns makes any conflict in the area that much more deadly.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

ISIS Oil Trade Full Frontal: “Raqqa’s Rockefellers”, Bilal Erdogan, KRG Crude, And The Israel Connection

ISIS Oil Trade Full Frontal: “Raqqa’s Rockefellers”, Bilal Erdogan, KRG Crude, And The Israel Connection

“Effectively, we have been financially discriminated against for a long time. By early 2014, when we did not receive the budget, we decided we need to start thinking about independent oil sales” —  Ashti Hawrami, Kurdistan’s minister for natural resources

In June of 2014, the SCF Altai (an oil tanker) arrived at Ashkelon port. Hours later, the first shipment of Kurdish pipeline oil was being unloaded in Israel. “Securing the first sale of oil from its independent pipeline is crucial for the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) as it seeks greater financial independence from war-torn Iraq,” Reuters noted at the time, adding that “the new export route to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, designed to bypass Baghdad’s federal pipeline system, has created a bitter dispute over oil sale rights between the central government and the Kurds.”

A week earlier, the SCF Altai received the Kurdish oil in a ship-to-ship transfer from the The United Emblem off the coast of Malta. The United Emblem loaded the crude at Ceyhan where a pipeline connects the Turkish port to Kurdistan.

The Kurds’ move to sell crude independent of Baghdad stems from a long-running budget dispute. Without delving too far into the details, Erbil is entitled to 17% of Iraqi oil revenue and in return, the KRG is supposed to transfer some 550,000 bpd to SOMO (Iraq’s state-run oil company). Almost immediately after the deal was struck late last year, Baghdad claimed the Kurds weren’t keeping up their end of the bargain and so, only a fraction of the allocated budget was sent to Erbil during the first five months of the year.

This was simply a continuation of a protracted disagreement between Erbil and Baghdad over how much of the state’s crude revenue should flow to the KRG. For its part, Iraq has threatened to sue anyone that buys independently produced Kurdish oil.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Kurd Oil Producers Unrelenting to Boost Supply at low Prices

Kurd Oil Producers Unrelenting to Boost Supply at low Prices

Oil producers in Iraqi Kurdistan are unrelenting in their goal to boost output even after the collapse in international prices to below $50 a barrel.

Genel Energy Plc (GENL), headed by former BP Plc chief Tony Hayward, is sticking with plans to increase capacity 74 percent to 400,000 barrels a day this year at its Kurdish Taq Taq and Tawke fields. Norway’s DNO ASA (DNO) owns 55 percent of Tawke.

“The operational side of the business remains very resilient and very strong and we maintain our production increase targets,” Genel Chief Financial Officer Julian Metherell said by phone fromLondon. “Even at $50 a barrel we are looking at a revenue of $350 million to $400 million.”

Gulf Keystone Petroleum Ltd. (GKP), another oil producer in the semi-autonomous region, last month raised output by 60 percent to 40,000 barrels a day and sees 70,000 barrels a day in 2017. The company will keep increasing its output and seek to cut transportation costs by about 60 percent, Chief Executive Officer John Gerstenlauer said in a phone interview.

Oil prices dropped below $50 a barrel this month from $115 in June as the U.S. pumped crude at the fastest rate in more than three decades and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries resisted calls to cut output. The United Arab Emirates and Qatar estimate surplus crude of 2 million barrels a day.

Prices Bottom?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

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