By John Lee.

Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar Ali al-Luaibi [Allibi, Luiebi] (pictured) has asked UK-based BP to develop the disputed Kirkuk oilfields.

The move comes just a day after Baghdad regained control of the area from Kurdish forces. Control of the field remains split between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad’s North Oil Company (NOC).

According to the Financial Times, BP’s chief executive Bob Dudley said before lunchtime yesterday that he had not yet heard from the Iraqi oil minister, but indicated the company could be interested.

(Sources: Ministry of Oil, Financial Times)

U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria on Tuesday, conducting seven strikes consisting of eight engagements, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported yesterday.

Officials reported details of yesterday’s strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Strikes in Syria

In Syria, coalition military forces conducted two strikes consisting of three engagements against ISIS targets near Abu Kamal yesterday. The strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed two vehicle-borne-bomb factories and an ISIS headquarters.

Officials also provided details today about three strikes consisting of three engagements conducted Oct. 16 near Raqqa for which the information was not available in time for yesterday’s report. The strikes suppressed three ISIS communication lines.

Strikes in Iraq

In Iraq, coalition military forces conducted five strikes consisting of five engagements yesterday against ISIS targets:

  • Near Qaim, two strikes destroyed three ISIS vehicle-borne-bomb factories, an ISIS-held building and a munition production and storage facility.
  • Near Beiji, two strikes destroyed an ISIS vehicle-borne bomb and an ISIS tunnel.
  • Near Rawa, a strike engaged one ISIS tactical unit.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

These strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria also further limits the group’s ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials said.

The list above contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing or remotely piloted aircraft; rocket-propelled artillery; and some ground-based tactical artillery when fired on planned targets, officials noted.

Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike, they added. A strike, as defined by the coalition, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect.

For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.

The task force does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

US-based security company Triple Canopy has agreed to pay $2.6 million to settle civil False Claims Act allegations that the company submitted false claims for payment to the Department of Defense for unqualified security guards stationed in Iraq.

Contractors must be held accountable for their actions, especially when the safety of government personnel is at stake” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This settlement should remind contractors of the high value we place on safeguarding our personnel abroad.

The allegations stem from Triple Canopy’s one-year contract with the Joint Contracting Command in Iraq (JCC-I), an entity established to provide contracting support related to the government’s relief and reconstruction efforts in Iraq. Under the 2009 contract, Triple Canopy was required to perform a variety of security services at Al Asad Airbase, the second largest air base in Iraq.   

The government’s complaint in intervention alleges that Triple Canopy knowingly billed the United States for security guards who could not pass contractually required firearms proficiency tests. The tests were designed by the Army to ensure that the guards hired to protect U.S. and allied personnel were capable of firing their assigned weapons safely and accurately.

The government further alleges that Triple Canopy concealed the guards’ inability to satisfy the firearms testing requirements by creating false test scorecards that Triple Canopy was required to maintain for government review, in an effort to induce the government to pay for the unqualified guards.    

By Hamdi Malik for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Sept. 25 referendum, in which voters overwhelmingly voted for independence for Iraqi Kurdistan, increased the division between the Turkmen and Kurdish populations in the disputed city of Kirkuk. But Turkmens believe the Kurdish move, which raised objections from several parties, offers an opportunity to strengthen their position in Iraq.

Turkmens reported intimidation and repeated attacks on their party in Kirkuk both before and after the referendum. On Oct. 2, someone reportedly fired on the party headquarters and even lobbed a grenade at the building. Turkmen parliament member Hassan Tauran confirmed the news in a TV interview, adding, “This is the fifth attack during the week that followed the referendum.”

Turkmens strongly oppose the Kurdistan Regional Government’s efforts to annex Kirkuk and other mixed-population areas, and they hold the Kurdish side responsible for the attacks. On Sept. 19, Turkmen parliament member Jassim Mohammed al-Bayati accused what he called the “gangs” of Kirkuk’s Kurdish governor of kidnapping a young Turkmen.

But it is difficult to get to the truth behind these attacks amid the tension plaguing the city. Kurdish forces affiliated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan gained full security and military control over the city after June 2014, when the Iraqi army’s 12th division withdrew in the face of the Islamic State’s overwhelming advance.

Turkmens are the third-largest ethnic group in Iraq and say they have been denied their rights since Saddam Hussein was overthrown as president in 2003. Part of the problem is the deep sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shiite Turkmens that kept them from forming unified political blocs. When the new regime based on sectarian and ethnic quotas was established in Iraq, the Turkmens lacked the political experience of the Shiites and Kurds. The Turkmens have been involved in sectarian strife in many areas, particularly in Tal Afar, reaching the point of military clashes.

By , for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iran and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq have historically been on good terms. During the Saddam Hussein years, Iran was one of the main countries to host Kurdish leaders. In the post-Saddam era, Tehran and Erbil have enjoyed good neighborly relations.

This relationship manifested itself in Iranian forces coming to the rescue of the Kurdish regions in their fight against the Islamic State (IS) in the summer of 2014. However, the recent independence referendum in the KRG has angered Tehran, and it is clear that the Kurdish moves will impact on both bilateral ties and wider regional alignments.

One important aspect to consider when assessing the fallout between Iran and the KRG following the independence vote is the economic dimension of their relationship in the geostrategic context of Iranian concerns.

Iran and the KRG have a multilayered relationship; most importantly, it is not all driven by the government. On the one hand, there are various trade links between the two sides, starting from very active border markets up to cross-border trade and investment.

There are five border markets between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan. Prior to the recent events, there were plans to expand such entities to create jobs and also shift the unofficial trade toward official channels. In fact, the KRG is an important market for Iranian exporters. The trade volume between the two sides amounted to $8 billion in 2014, which made Iran the KRG’s second-largest trading partner, after Turkey.

In recent years, Iranian exports to the Kurdistan Region have dropped due to the conflict against IS. Yet, according to Kurdish sources, the trade volume between Iran and the KRG stood at $4 billion in 2016. This means that approximately 40% of the Iran-Iraq trade goes through the KRG.

U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, conducting three strikes consisting of three engagements in recent days, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Officials reported details of the strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Strike in Syria

In Syria, coalition military forces conducted one strike consisting of one engagement Oct. 15 near Dayr Az Zawr, engaging an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed two fighting positions.

Strikes in Iraq

In Iraq yesterday, coalition military forces conducted two strikes consisting of two engagements against ISIS targets:

  • Near Rahwa, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed an improvised explosive device weapons facility.
  • Near Qaim, a strike destroyed a vehicle-borne-IED factory.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

These strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria also further limits the group’s ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials said.

The list above contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing or remotely piloted aircraft; rocket-propelled artillery; and some ground-based tactical artillery when fired on planned targets, officials noted.

Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike, they added. A strike, as defined by the coalition, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect.

For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.

The task force does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)

By John Lee.

Iraq is reportedly considering using security forces to prevent Kurdistan from blocking oil output from Kirkuk.

A spokesman for the North Oil Company (NOC) told Reuters that Kurdish officials indicated that they would shut down production at the Kirkuk oilfield, ostensibly for security reasons, but as a means of putting pressure on Baghdad.

Kirkuk produces around 200,000 barrels per day, out of total Kurdish production of over 600,000 bpd.

More from Reuters here.

(Source: Reuters)

Federal forces in control of large areas of Kirkuk city; further Kurdish withdrawals in Nineveh/Diyala

Over the course of October 16, Iraqi federal forces advanced into many parts of Kirkuk city and adjacent military and energy facilities. The Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), supported by the Iraqi Army and Federal Police took control of the K1 military base, the governor’s palace, the Kirkuk Provincial Council headquarters, the North Oil Company and North Gas Company headquarters, the Kirkuk Regional Air Base, and key areas of Kirkuk city and road junctions.

While Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) took part in operations in rural areas, they were not deployed into the Kirkuk city area.  Local Kurdish forces aligned with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) offered minimal resistance as federal forces moved into the area, many media reports have focused on an agreement in place between the PUK leadership and Baghdad for an orderly transfer of the facilities listed.

As a result, Baghdad is now in control of the portions of PUK-controlled Kirkuk that it held prior to the 2014 military collapse.   Government forces were also reported to have moved into the oil fields of Dibis district that have been held by forces loyal to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) since 2014. These fields produce 275,000 barrels of oil per day, or nearly half the 620,000-barrel output of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Some media reports claimed that thousands of Kurdish civilians have fled Kirkuk city and its surrounding area.  Other reports claimed that crowds of ethnic Turkmen who opposed Kurdish control of the city celebrated on the streets of Kirkuk.  The US has not opposed Baghdad’s return to Kirkuk in part because the move was framed in terms of restoring the status quo before the Islamic State (IS) crisis.  This theme has been echoed by the majority of the international community.

Separate unconfirmed reporting has indicated that Sinjar, 100km west of Mosul in Nineveh province, is now under the control of ISF/PMU forces following the withdrawal of Peshmerga forces from the town. Reporting on October 16 had indicated a build-up of government forces to the south and east of Sinjar.

Reporting last night indicated that talks were underway for a peaceful handover. Yazidi elements of the region’s majority Shia PMU forces had apparently stated their unwillingness to confront Peshmerga owing to the close ties between the groups.  Reports from Diyala province have also claimed that Kurdish forces have withdrawn from positions in the Mandali district northeast of Baquba as Iraqi federal forces entered Khanaqin district to the south of Mandali.

(Source: GardaWorld)

Coalition military officials are monitoring military movements near Kirkuk, Iraq, following reports of an incident, Pentagon Director of Press Operations Army Col. Rob Manning told reporters today.

“The coalition is monitoring movements of military vehicles and personnel in the vicinity of Kirkuk, he said. “These movements of military vehicles so far have been coordinated movements, not attacks.”

Coalition forces and advisers are not supporting the activities of Iraqi government or Kurdistan Regional Government forces near Kirkuk, Manning said. “We are aware of reports of a limited exchange of fire during the predawn hours [today], and we believe this to have been an isolated incident,” he said of media reports of fighting between Iraqi and Kurdish fighters.

“We have not seen levels of violence suggested in some media reports,” he said, adding that the coalition strongly urges all sides to avoid additional escalatory actions, opposes violence from any party, and urges against destabilizing actions that distract from the fight against ISIS and undermine Iraq’s stability.

Support for Unified Iraq

The United States continues to support a unified Iraq, Manning said.

“Despite the Kurdistan Regional Government’s unfortunate decision to pursue a unilateral referendum, dialogue remains the best option to diffuse ongoing tensions and long-standing issues,” he noted.

The Defense Department remains focused on the fight against ISIS, a terrorist organization that threatens the states in the region and the international community, Manning said.

“We call on all actions in the region to focus on this common threat, and avoid stoking tensions among the Iraqi people. We remain focused on destroying ISIS,” he said.

(Source: US Dept of Defense)