Iraq: Momentary Gains for a Jihadist Group


Video Transcript:

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Sham, ISIS, an al Qaeda-related group that is a principal extremist actor in the Syrian civil war and ongoing Iraqi insurgency, seized parts of Ramadi and Fallujah in Iraq on Jan. 3. Rather than viewing this as a fundamental power shift between ISIS and Baghdad’s security forces, however, it should be seen as a temporary victory.
Tensions between Baghdad and the Sunni tribes of Anbar province have been simmering through most of last year and boiled over on Dec. 30 when President Maliki ordered a Sunni protest camp to be dismantled by security forces. The arrest of a local senior Sunni politician led to clashes severe enough to prompt Maliki to withdraw security forces from the region in an effort to de-escalate the situation. It was this security vacuum that ISIS used to seize territory in both cities.
It is one thing to grab territory, especially if it is predominantly uncontested, and quite another to hold it against a concerted military operation mounted by the Iraqi security forces. Sources in Iraq claim that roughly 300 ISIS fighters remain in Ramadi while 800 or so are entrenched in Fallujah. While the urban terrain will give ISIS fighters a serious combat boost as the established defenders against the better equipped Iraqi security forces, they won’t have the numbers or ability to hold indefinitely.
ISIS survives in Iraq by being an insurgent group, avoiding direct confrontation and hiding and moving through the population. This territory grab in Ramadi and Fallujah gives them an address, alleviating the Iraqi security forces of one of their most difficult missions of just finding ISIS. Now they can actually concentrate force, and if executed correctly, degrade sizable chunks of combat power in detail.
The withdrawal of U.S. troops and their allies at the end of 2011 and the outbreak of the Syrian civil war next door has given ISIS the ability to rebound into a capable regional actor, but at the same time their aggressiveness has them overcommitted, outgunned and alienated on multiple fronts. Other rebel groups in Syria have started serious infighting with ISIS recently after they became disillusioned with their actions and have attacked several units despite the advantage this gives to the Assad regime.
This leaves the recent Fallujah and Ramadi seizures likely to be temporary at best. The only serious complicating factor for the Iraqi security forces is moderating their use of force so as not to antagonize the Sunni tribes further. While these tribes might covertly support ISIS or turn a blind eye to their actions against the Maliki government, they do not want to be drawn into an open civil war. Many of the tribes in Anbar have already come out in support of the government forces, with just a few throwing their lot in with ISIS.
ISIS’s ultimate goal is to destabilize Iraq to the point where they can accomplish their ultimate aim of a regional Islamic Emirate. They can only accomplish this if they can unite a sizable portion of the Sunni population into a sectarian civil war through their own actions or by provoking the Shiite government into actions that accomplish the same. Without this, they will come up short.

Iraq: Minister Expects Imminent Resolution To Oil Dispute

April 9, 2014 | 1019 GMT

Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi said April 9 that he expects Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan region to reach a deal on oil exports within a few days, Reuters reported. The minister said he also expects oil to start flowing through the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline within a week, after it was halted at the beginning of March. Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan are trying to impose a new energy reality on Baghdad but still face enormous constraints.



Ukraine’s currency plunges to an all-time low

President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ratcheted up pressure on Ukraine after annexing Crimea last month, ignoring sanctions from the U.S. and European Union, massing troops along its neighbor’s eastern border and raising gas prices. Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

(Corrects reference to gas imports in third paragraph of story published April 9.)

Ukraine’s hryvnia plunged to an all-time low and the nation’s 2023 Eurobonds slid for a third day as a dispute over gas prices exacerbated the standoff with Russia amid continued unrest in the country’s east.

The hryvnia weakened 3 percent to a record 12.15 per dollar by 4:52 p.m. in Kiev, bringing the decline this year to 32 percent, the worst performance among global currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The yield on the government’s dollar debt due April 2023 rose seven basis points to 9.52 percent, the highest since March 25, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Ukraine won’t buy Russian gas to pump into storage for the heating season until a price is agreed, Energy Minister Yuri Prodan said today after Russian President Vladimir Putin told his government to draw up a plan to replace Ukrainian imports. Russia has ratcheted up pressure on its neighbor after annexing Crimea last month, ignoring sanctions from the U.S. and European Union, massing troops along its eastern border and raising gas prices.

“The Russian gas-price hike is not exactly improving the situation, nor the uncertainty over the very fluid situation in Ukraine’s eastern provinces,” John Hardy, Copenhagen-based head of foreign-exchange strategy at Saxo Bank A/S, said in e-mailed comments today. “I would steer clear of Ukrainian assets.”

Ukraine, which faces more than $9 billion in maturing debt and interest payments this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, expects to receive $13.5 billion of bailout funds including International Monetary Fund aid, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said April 4.

‘Essentially Insolvent’

“The country is essentially insolvent and entirely at the mercy of international institutions and Western aid,” Hardy said. “The path of escalation could be Ukraine cutting off gas deliveries that run through the country to the rest of Europe.”

Ukrainian sovereign debt maturing June 4 traded little changed at 96.92 cents on the dollar, as the yield rose by 120 basis points, or 1.20 percentage points, to 30.22 percent. The Ukrainian Equities Index advanced 1.1 percent to 1,098.41.

Ukrainian security forces continued an “anti-terrorist” operation in some eastern cities after freeing buildings seized by pro-Russian protesters in Kharkiv. The activists want a referendum on joining Russia and a boycott of Ukraine’s May 25 presidential election.

Putin said today Russia can’t subsidize its neighbor forever and urged talks before a possible switch to advance payments for natural gas. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Ukraine owes $16.6 billion in energy debts, while Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Ukraine is seeking a $3 billion loan.

“Russia is putting substantial economic, military and political pressure on Ukraine, and we do not expect Russia to step back until its demands are met,” Vadim Khramov, a London-based analyst at Bank of America Corp., wrote in an e-mailed report today.

Central Bank reserves exclude reach 100 billion dollars for “feeding the expansion of foreign trade” for the private sector


Long-Presse / Baghdad

Revealed the CBI, on Sunday, announced the arrival of its reserves of hard currency to the equivalent of 90 trillion dinars end of the month of February, while expected to continue to increase the proportion “not great” not being able to reach the barrier percent billion, attributed to the expansion in Feeding foreign trade to the private sector.

The administration has said the central bank in the gallery its written reply to questions from the (long-Presse), “The total reserves of the Central Bank of Iraq reached until the end of February 2014 the past, to ninety trillion dinars,” noting that it “reserves increased by good compared to previous months as Iraq makes in a stable position financially. ”

And affirmed the bank’s management, that “the increase in reserve growth would continue, but rates are not great,” excluded “arrived from hard currency reserves hundred billion dollars due to the expansion of foreign trade in feed for the private sector,”

The Department of the Central Bank, that there is “a great demand for the dollar through currency auction, which takes the other hand, the Iraqi dinar is what makes expansion there commercially for some applicants the dollar.”

It is noteworthy that the Iraqi Central Bank, announced in (the 23 of December 2013 the past), the arrival of the foreign currency reserves of more than 88 billion dollars, returned it contributes to the stability of the dinar could be a “source of pride” for the Iraqis.

The Central Bank of Iraq, had announced in May 2013, on the arrival of foreign currency reserves to 74 billion dollars, saying that it represents “the highest rate of” record in the history of Iraq.

The central bank of Iraq, in the (third from April 2014 current), the arrival of the gold reserves of 90 tons to support the value of the Iraqi dinar, noting that it contributes to the enhancement of the national economy.

As I mentioned special bulletins Iraq’s central bank, issued early March 2014, he has sold more than 228 billion dollars since the start of the meetings of the currency auction in 2003 and until that date, and showed that the commissions earned by the bank of those sales ranged between three to 24 dinars per dollar.

Iraq Buys $1.56 Bln of Gold, Biggest Purchase in 3 Years

By Khalid Al-Ansary and Nicholas Larkin Mar 25, 2014 6:08 AM CT

The Central Bank of Iraq acquired the metal to help stabilize the Iraqi dinar against foreign currencies, it said in an e-mailed statement.

Iraq bought 36 metric tons of gold this month valued at about $1.56 billion in the largest purchase by a nation in three years.

The Central Bank of Iraq acquired the metal to help stabilize the Iraqi dinar against foreign currencies, it said in an e-mailed statement. The country held about 29.8 tons of bullion as of August, according to data on the International Monetary Fund’s website. The latest addition was the biggest since Mexico bought 78.5 tons in March 2011.

While nations purchased about 544 tons in 2012 in the largest accumulation in about five decades, acquisitions slowed to 369 tons last year, according to the London-based World Gold Council. Countries will continue buying amounts in the “hundreds” of tons, the producer-funded council said in February. Bullion prices rebounded 9.2 percent since December, after slumping the most since 1981 last year as demand for a store of value waned.

“Gold is quite attractive to central bankers,” Mark O’Byrne, a director in Dublin at brokerage GoldCore Ltd., which has more than $200 million in bullion under management, said today by phone. “They see it as an important asset diversification and a safe-haven element within foreign-exchange reserves.”

Gold for immediate delivery traded at $1,316.15 an ounce in London, after sliding 28 percent last year. It reached a record $1,921.15 in September 2011. Prices averaged $1,344.78 so far this month, valuing Iraq’s purchase at about $1.56 billion.

Iraq’s Reserves

Adding the amount Iraq said it bought in March to its reported holding in August would make it the 40th-largest holder by country, according to the WGC. The nation has no plans to sell metal from its reserves, Muneer Omran, director general of investments at the central bank, said in an interview in Dubai in January.

Bullion had accounted for less than 2 percent of the nation’s total reserves, compared with about 70 percent for the U.S. and Germany, the biggest holders.

“Demand from the likes of Iraq is important,” GoldCore’s O’Byrne said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean it will lead to higher gold prices per se, but it definitely means that there’s an ongoing demand from central banks that is likely to continue” and should support prices, he said.

Mexico owns about 123 tons of the metal, according to the WGC. Turkey’s reserves, at about 488.6 tons now, expanded as much as 44.7 tons in July 2012. Bullion has been added to its balance sheet as a result of accepting gold in its reserve requirements from commercial banks.

Urgent – Baghdad, Erbil reach oil export agreement, Budget endorsement

breaking news baghdad erbil reach agreement over exporting oil endorsing budget Urgent   Baghdad, Erbil reach oil export agreement, Budget endorsement

Baghdad ( The Central Government and Kurdistan Region have reached a compromise over exporting the oil and endorsing the Budget.

An informed source stated to Iraqi News ( “Kurdistan Region agreed upon exporting its oil thought SOMO Oil Company where the official announcement of the agreement will be within two days.”

“The two sides agreed upon endorsing the General Budget next week after settling the disputes over it,” the source concluded.
Read more:

Oil Exports Hit 25-yr High

Oil Exports Hit 25-yr High

By John Lee.

Iraq produced oil at a rate of 3.5 million bpd in February, and exported at a rate of 2.8 million bpd, a sharp month-on-month gain and the highest such figure in at least a quarter-century, reports AFP.

The deputy prime minister for energy affairs, Hussain Al Shahristani (pictured), said February output would have been significantly higher if not for energy disputes with the Kurdistan region.

We think the average for the year is probably going to be about 2.9 million bpd, so maybe in the latter part of the year there will be a little bit more than that,” a Western oil executive in Iraq told Reuters.

Most of Iraq’s crude is exported via its southern terminals near Basra, but a significant portion goes through a northern pipeline that is periodically bombed by militants.

Ukraine’s central bank moves to protect hryvnia

February 28, 2014

By Natalia Zinets and Sabina Zawadzki

KIEV, Feb 28 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s hryvnia rose on Friday from historic lows after the central bank governor limited access to foreign currencies and promised an investigation into whether banks speculated too much in their currency trading.

The bank also banned non-deliverable forward contracts in the currency market.

Dealers said the hryvnia was trading around 9.80-10.10 to the dollar after weakening as far as 11.20-10.10 on Thursday.

Central Bank governor Stepan Kubiv said on Friday depositors of foreign currencies would be limited to withdrawals equivalent to 15,000 hryvnia a day, or around $1,500.

He also said central bank staff would look into the trading of 16 unnamed banks to see whether they had illegally speculated in their currency trade operations.

“It was all speculation and the moment the market felt a peak (in the dollar), offers (of the dollar) started to appear,” said one dealer.

Dealers said activity in the non-deliverable forwards market usually rises during times of volatility. The central bank did not give data on the forwards market or say how large a market it is.

Investors have been concerned about Ukraine’s ability to repay its sovereign debts after upheaval that has removed from power President Viktor Yanukovich and raised doubts about a $15 billion life-line from Russia.

Ukraine’s 2017 dollar bond was trading at 92.7 percent of its face value, up 1 point on the day. Most other issues also rose slightly on the day.

State energy firm Naftogaz’s dollar bond due Sept 2014 fell 1 point however, possibly reflecting fears that some short-dated bonds may have to be rescheduled.

Earlier, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said Ukraine hoped to begin receiving international financial aid soon and was determined to fulfill conditions needed to secure support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“It seems like some emergency funding will be made available and that will sustain Ukraine for the immediate period. The national bank putting curbs on some deposit withdrawals may also have had an impact,” said Neil Shearing, head of EM research at Capital Economics in London.

“But the hryvnia probably needs to weaken further towards 11 per dollar to put the balance of payments picture on a more sustainable footing.”

Ukraine’s new leaders have said the heavily indebted country needs at least $35 billion to stave off bankruptcy.

Iraq: China Offers To Help Baghdad Build Up Oil Production, Infrastructure

Sunday, February 23, 2014 – 07:53
China has offered to help Iraq build up its oil production and infrastructure,and has discussed supplying Baghdad with arms, the Iraqi and Chinese foreign ministers said Feb. 23, Alsumaria News and Alrafidayn reported. China, a major importer of Iraqi oil, is looking to improve stability in Iraq to ensure the steady flow of oil so that energy costs do not rise as Beijing’s economy slows.

UPDATE 2-Iraq says Kurds agree to export oil via central marketing body

Feb 19 (Reuters) – Iraqi Kurdistan has agreed to export crude via the country’s main oil marketing body, Deputy Prime Minister for energy Hussain al-Shahristani said, potentially removing a major sticking point in a resource row with the central government.

The autonomous region’s prime minister and top energy official travelled to Baghdad earlier this week, intensifying efforts to settle the long-running dispute over exports of oil from Kurdistan via a new independent pipeline to Turkey.

The region has previously insisted it will export crude on its own terms, bypassing Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO), but Shahristani said the Kurds had finally relented.

“After hours of meetings, we have agreed that our brothers in the region will be represented in SOMO and agreed that this is the sole national outlet responsible for exporting oil,” Shahristani said in an interview on Iraqi state television late on Wednesday. “This is an important step forward”.

Baghdad has repeatedly threatened to sue Ankara and slash Kurdistan’s share of the national budget if exports go ahead through the pipeline without its consent.

The pipeline was completed late last year, and oil has since been pumped through it into storage tanks at Turkey’s Ceyhan, but exports from the Mediterranean port are on hold to give diplomacy a chance.

Negotiations have carried on for months with little progress and Shahristani said differences remained over revenue-sharing.

“The second issue that is still unresolved is that they want the revenue from oil exports to be deposited in a private account for the region in the DFI (Development Fund for Iraq),” Shahristani said.

Revenue from the sale of Iraq’s oil is paid into the DFI in New York for Baghdad to disburse.

Kurdistan is entitled to a 17 percent share, but says it in fact receives far less than that, and in recent weeks has accused Baghdad of withholding funds, leaving civil servants in the region unpaid.

Shahristani said the finance ministry had now sent enough cash to cover the salaries of Kurdish government employees for January, but faced a liquidity crisis and would not be able to pay in February or after that unless the region resumed oil exports.

“The Finance Ministry said it will not be able to keep paying salaries whilst the region is still not delivering oil,” he said. “The ministry has stopped payments to the region and the only solution for this real problem if for the region to start exporting oil”

Crude from Kurdistan used to reach world markets through a Baghdad-controlled pipeline, but exports via that channel dried up due to a row over payments for oil companies operating in the northern enclave.

Since then, the Kurds have been exporting smaller quantities by truck across the border whilst building the pipeline to Turkey and negotiating a multi-billion dollar energy deal with Ankara. (Writing by Isabel Coles, editing by David Evans)

Iraq: Arbil, Baghdad Nearing Deal On Oil Dispute

February 6, 2014 | 1410 GMT

The Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government are nearing a resolution to their dispute over oil revenue sharing, Genel Energy President Mehmet Sepil said, Reuters reported Feb. 6. Sepil said the sides still need to determine whether oil sales will be done by Baghdad’s oil market company or Arbil’s, which bank account will receive deposits and how to handle oil payments owed to companies operating in the Iraqi Kurdistan region.