Politics, Geopolitics & Conflict
• Pressure between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan has heightened with the start of construction of the Rogun Dam – a major power infrastructure project that will reduce Tajikistan’s reliance on imports. This does not sit well with its bigger and richer neighbor, which last time Tajikistan attempted to start the dam’s construction, responded with freight and energy blockades. Now things between the two gas-rich Central Asian countries have mellowed somewhat, following the death of Uzbekistan’s long-time ruler Islam Karimov, but an armed conflict is not out of the question. Uzbekistan has gas reserves estimated at 1.61 trillion cubic meters and crude oil reserves of 594 million barrels. Tajikistan’s oil reserves are unimpressive, at 12 million barrels, but gas reserves are more robust, estimated at 5.663 billion cubic meters.
• As the battle for Mosul pushes IS out and fighters take refuge in oil-rich Kirkuk—the center of the industry in the Iraqi north—Iraqi Kurdish forces, which now nominally control Kirkuk, are reportedly going from home to home, forcing Sunni Arab residents out in an effort to root out ISIS forces. This will spark additional unrest as Sunni Arab civilian refugees in diverse Kirkuk are being targeted in a blanket security sweep, lumped in with ISIS. This will further upset the balance of power in fragile Kirkuk, which has been leaning toward the Kurds of late.