Friday, July 11, 2014

Kurds dominate the news cycle

As the US continues to (at the very least) indulge tyrant Nouri al-Maliki, Nouri continues his War Crime of collective punishment by bombing the residential neighborhoods of Falluja resulting in 4 dead civilians and seven more injured.

But neither Nouri's War Crimes nor news of Syria qualify as big news today.  Syria?  NINA quotes an unnamed security source stating, "A squadron consist of 3 / Sukhoi fighters plans have penetrate Iraqi airspace today and hovering over the cities of Alqaim , Alrutba, as well as over Karabilah and Rummanah areas."

So the big news?

Mohammed A. Salih (Christian Science Monitor) reports,  "Iraqi Kurdistan careened closer to independence today, with Kurdish forces advancing outside Kirkuk, which they seized last month, to seize two major Iraqi oil fields." Raheem Salman and Mustafa Mahmoud (Reuters) add "Kurdish politicians formally suspended their participation in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government.
[. . .] The Kurdish forces took over production facilities at the Bai Hassan and Kirkuk oilfields near the city of Kirkuk, the oil ministry in Baghdad said."  

NINA notes the Bai Hassan oil field "produces about 195,000 barrels per day."

On the issue of the Kurds walking out of the Cabinet, Al Jazeera notes:

Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshiyar Zebari, said on Friday that Kurdish politicians would stop running their ministries, a day after they had announced a boycott of cabinet meetings.
The ministries affected include Zebari's foreign ministry, the trade ministry, the ministry of migration, the health ministry and the deputy premiership, the Reuters news agency reported.
Kurdish MPs would continue to attend the parliament, elected on April 30, Zebari said, adding the country risked falling apart if an inclusive government was not formed.

BBC News reminds the seizure and the walkout follows an earlier action, "They did so after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki accused the Kurds of harbouring extremists."

The KRG issued the following statement on today's events:

Erbil, Kurdistan Region ( - This morning, members of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Kirkuk Oil Protection Forces moved to secure the oil fields of Bai Hassan and the Makhmour area, after learning of orders by officials in the federal Ministry of Oil in Baghdad to sabotage the recent mutually-agreed pipeline infrastructure linking the Avana dome with the Khurmala field.

The nearby Bai Hassan field and the other fields located in Makhmour district are now safely under KRG management. The KRG expects production at these fields to continue normally. Staff at the North Oil Company that previously operated these fields have been informed that from tomorrow they will be expected to cooperate with KRG management. Those who do not want to do so can leave.

The new pipeline linking Khurmala with Avana was designed and constructed with the express purpose of facilitating export from the Makhmour, Avana and Kirkuk area fields through the KRG pipeline network to help increase revenues for Iraqis, at a time of great need and at a time when most of the Iraq-Turkey pipeline is under ISIS control.

The new infrastructure was built and paid for by the KRG, working in full cooperation with officials and engineers at North Oil Company. However, the KRG learned on Thursday that some officials in the federal Ministry of Oil gave orders to a number of NOC staff to cease their cooperation with the KRG and to dismantle or render inoperable the valves on the new pipeline.

The Avana and Makhmour fields have been unable to export since March because the main Iraq-Turkey pipeline has been damaged by terrorist attacks. The main Iraq pipeline lies mostly within territory recently surrendered by the federal government to ISIS.

Despite the inability to export and the halt to refining at Beiji, the Avana and Makhmour fields were producing about 110,000 barrels of oil per day and utilising the associated gas to help with the operation of the LPG bottling plant in Kirkuk.

But instead of using the new KRG pipeline infrastructure to export the produced oil, officials at the NOC were ordered by Baghdad to re-inject the oil back into a small, disused field in Kirkuk. This politically motivated decision risked causing great damage to the field in question with a permanent loss of most of the oil that has been re-injected. It has also deprived the people of Iraq of much-needed oil export revenue.

From now on, production at the new fields under KRG control will be used primarily to fill the shortage of refined products in the domestic market. This will ease the burden on ordinary citizens caused by the failure of the federal authorities to protect the country's vital oil infrastructure in the region.
The KRG will also claim its Constitutional share of oil revenues derived from these fields to make up for the huge financial deficit triggered by the illegal withholding of the KRG’s 17 percent share of the federal budget by Baghdad.

The KRG has been and always will be open to cooperation and coordination with Baghdad, according to the rights and responsibilities of the Regions as outlined under the Iraqi Constitution. The KRG still hopes that Baghdad climbs down from its policy of punitive political and economic sanctions against the citizens of Kurdistan.

  This morning’s events have shown that the KRG is determined to protect and defend Iraq’s oil infrastructure whenever it is threatened by acts of terrorism or, as in this case, politically motivated sabotage

Meanwhile Nouri wants lethal US drones over Iraq.  Barack's given him that -- although not control of them.  Barack thinks that somehow leaves him in control.  Patrick Cockburn (Independent) weighs in:

The US is pleased with the way drones have worked in Yemen and Waziristan against small groups of Al Qaeda-associated groups. But these isolated gangs are not a serious threat compared with what is brewing in Syria and Iraq, where there will soon be tens of thousands of trained, well-equipped and fanatical militants under a strong central command.

But there is one important aspect of drone warfare to which Washington has not given enough attention. Drones have hitherto been used largely against ill-equipped tribes people in isolated parts of the world and not against well-organised groups such as Isis.  The latter may not be able to do much against drones at the moment they strike, but it will certainly retaliate later against American or European targets. 

Finally, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Jurfis-Sakhar battle left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead and three more injured, security forces say they killed 4 suspects in an aerial bombing of Muqdadiyah, an Iraqi aerial bombing of Jurfist-Sakhar killed 20 suspects, a Kirkuk suicide bomber took his own life and the lives of 3 Peshmerga,

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