February 26, 2011

TSG IntelBrief: Iraq, Oil and Political Fires


Executive Summary Early this morning, while the world focused on Libya and the enduring, dangerous chaos in that country; several thousand miles away in Iraq - now almost a side-show in strategic thinking - an attack took place which may have profound geopolitical significance.

An assault by an as yet unidentified group using small arms and explosives has brought the giant Baiji oil refinery - Iraq's biggest - to a halt.  Two employees at least were killed in the assault, and the BBC reported that it took 50 fire engines five hours to bring the fire under control.

Baiji refinery is seriously damaged, requiring significant repair work.  It is one of three refineries that serve Iraq's internal oil needs, and its loss, even temporary, will place further strain on an already creaking infrastructure.

This in turn will lead to further political pressure on an increasingly beleaguered government which is under siege for a singularly lackluster performance in delivering basic services to its people: electricity, drinking water and other utilities.

The viability of the current Iraqi government is coming under threat.  The attack also potentially complicates the posture of the US forces in Iraq and will cause a serious headache for political and military planners alike.

And that is precisely what the attackers want.


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