Politics, Geopolitics & Conflict
• For the Iraqi Kurds, as we’ve stated numerous times over the past several years, an independence bid was always really contingent on whether they could get control of oil-rich Kirkuk. Kirkuk lies in the disputed belt between territory controlled by the central Iraqi government and territory controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Right now, it’s a flashpoint in the battle against the Islamic State (ISIS). But the ISIS encroachment on Kirkuk, while it poses a security threat to the KRG right on its border, also is an opportunity for the KRG. Without the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Baghdad would have lost Kirkuk to the Islamic State long ago. Now the Kurds are taking advantage of the situation in earnest to bring Kirkuk—home to 10 percent of Iraq’s oil reserves--into the KRG fold. Earlier this week, KRG authorities came out with a show of support for Kirkuk’s plan to create its own oil company, which would be detached from the Iraqi state-run North Oil Company (NOC). Kirkuk and the Kurds are falling back on Iraqi constitution legal ease that apparently allows for the establishment of a separate oil company if local production exceeds 100,000 bpd, and it’s already exceeded 150,000 bpd. The local government of Kirkuk wants more control over its own oil, and the Kurds have agreed to deposit $10 million a month into a Kirkuk account in this new deal. The is the Kurds’ second step into Kirkuk—the first was the necessity of its forces to hold back ISIS, the second will be through the Kirkuk Oil Co.
• In Iraq, some 60 people have been killed in a suicide fuel tanker bombing at a checkpoint leading into al-Hillah, a bit over 100 kilometers south of Baghdad. Responsibility for the attack has been claimed by ISIS and the attack represents the largest in Babil province in recent years. This foray south is meant to divide Iraqi security forces geographically.
• Russia is facing threats in its North Caucasus region over its airstrikes in Syria in support of Assad. The ISIS branch in the Russian North Caucasus has released a video promising retaliatory attacks in the region.
• It may turn out to be a very short stint in the Ukrainian prime minister’s chair for Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who is expected to resign as early as next week. His resignation could result in the release by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of a $17.5-billion…