Friday, May 22, 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.”

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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.