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Iraqi military forces on Tuesday retook two villages and an oil refinery on the outskirts of Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq, according to media reports.
Iraq’s army reached Tal Afar’s center today, and forces are encircling terrorists in the last stronghold of ISIS in the Nineveh province.
According to pro-government troops, quoted by Iraqi News, ISIS militants were setting oil wells on fire to prevent jets from striking targets in the area.
A little over a month after recapturing Mosul, Iraq said that Iraqi forces, supported by the U.S., moved on to secure and retake Tal Afar, some 50 miles west of Mosul, from Islamic State militants.
The Global Coalition against ISIS welcomed Iraq’s launch of the offensive on Tal Afar, and said it would support Iraq’s government and forces with training, intelligence, precision fires, and combat advice. Over the weekend, the coalition hit ISIS positions at Tal Afar and destroyed ISIS vehicles, roadblocks, and weapons.
Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer, has been suffering a double shock in its government revenues due to resources necessary for the fight against ISIS and the persistently lower oil prices, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said earlier this month after the end of its latest consultation in Iraq.
The country booked a deficit of 14 percent last year, up from 12 percent for 2015, with foreign exchange reserves shrinking to US$45 billion last year from US$54 billion at the end of 2015 because of the drop in oil prices. At the same time, humanitarian and security spending increased, further burdening Baghdad’s efforts to return to growth.
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Iraq has been the worst-compliant OPEC member since the start of the production cuts, with its output each month exceeding the 4.351 million bpd it had pledged to keep as a ceiling.
The fight against ISIS was one of Iraq’s talking points as it as trying to win exemption from the cuts during the negotiations with fellow OPEC members prior to the agreement.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.