Saturday, October 15, 2016

Kashagan Back On Line -- October 5, 2016

Wow, this story is finally ready for prime time: Kazakhstan's Kashagan ships first oil for export. I track this "never-ending" story here.

Reuters reports these data points:
  • first oil from Kashagan shipped yesterday, Friday, October 14, 2016
  • shipped via two pipelines
  • four wells at Kashagan were producing a total of 90,000 bopd (staggering) -- that's more oil in one day than what an average Bakken well would produce in several months
  • has cost $50 billion to develop
  • first output in 2013 was suspended due to technical problems with the pipelines
  • consortium: China National Petroleum Corp; XOM; Royal Dutch Shell; Total; Inpex; and, KazMunai Gas
  • production estimated to be between 150,000 to 180,000 bopd by end of year
Dante's Inferno

In this week's issue of The New York Review of Books: Dante: He Went Mad in His Hell, an essay / review by Robert Pogue Harrison on Marco Santagata's biography of Dante, The Story of His Life.

Some have compared ObamaCare to Dante's Inferno. If so, this paragraph in that essay is remarkable:
Anyone reading The Divine Comedy for the first time knows how it comes at you with overwhelming strangeness, drawing you into its dark wood of confusion, down into the entrails of Hell, then up the terraces of the Mountain of Purgatory in the Southern Hemisphere before lifting off into the heavenly spheres of Paradiso, the canticle that ventures into “waters that have never yet been sailed,” stupefying those few readers who manage to make it this far into the journey. Who could have written such a poem, and how?
Wow, does that describe ObamaCare, or does that describe ObamaCare?

Of course, we have yet to see the heavenly sphere of Paradiso. That will be up to Mrs Clinton.

Control Of The Entire Middle East And World Oil -- Putin's Quest? October 15, 2016


October 21, 2016: update on Moscow's Club Med

October 21, 2016: the number of ships in this flotilla has now increased to ten; the original seven went to eight, and now we learn that these eight will join another two already en route.

October 20, 2016: Russian ready to land a knock-out blow on the Aleppo rebels; give Assad a huge victory; and give President Obama (perhaps golfing) a black eye. Russia's entire Northern Fleet and much of the Baltic Fleet in the largest surface deployment since the end of the Cold War will soon launch on Aleppo.

October 19, 2016: The [London] Sun's take on this. A bit of hyperbole, methinks:
Defence expert for Russian news agency RIA, Alexander Khrolenko, said: "While the North Atlantic bloc is stalling in the sands of the Middle East, the Russian Navy seizes control over the Atlantic, not to mention the Mediterranean and Black Seas."
October 15, 2016: see first comment. The source is Russian press, and their focus is something different than what the Western press might note. Reading things quickly, and possibly misreading things, this is what I see:
This a/c carrier group has been in the Mediterranean on several prior occasions beginning back in 1995.

The deployment may be nothing more than a "PR" move but it does give Putin more options. We will know more over the next several days when the Western media begins to report this story. I'm looking for the WSJ to report the story on page 3 of their first section (page A3).

I doubt the Russians are bringing the a/c carrier group in to support President Obama's goals in the region.

October 15, 2016: Another missile was fired earlier tonight -- One must assume these rebels are getting "intel" with outside help, and most likely, "someone else" is "calling the shots."

Original Post
I am tracking recent events in the Mideast in various posts on the blog. The earlier post today was to help me keep track of what this all means. There are just too many moving parts, and I often "lose the bubble."

A reader responded with a great observation. I can't disagree. I, too, am concerned that we are coming perilously close to a major US/Russian confrontation somewhere in the Mideast. Where, I have no idea, but the reader presented this very interesting observation and argument:
For all the reasons you give (at the linked post above) I personally feel some of this is a diversion on the part of Russia and Iran to go after a much bigger prize: control of the whole Middle East and world oil.
I think the real battle shaping up will take place in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait a narrow chokepoint between the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea and in the Straits of Hormuz between the Gulf of Oman and Persian Gulf.

Recent unchecked harassment of our naval vessels in the Straits of Hormuz and then the three recent missile attacks on two US destroyers and a US flagged leased ship off of Yemen is a sign of Iran’s aggression now with their pockets full of cash as a result of the Iranian Nuclear agreement.

Following our retaliatory strike, the Iranians deployed several Iranian naval vessels to the Bab el-Mandeb Straits which ups the ante. I would imagine new radar systems will reappear in time but protected with Russian supplied modern anti-aircraft missiles systems. [An "actionable" observation to watch.]

Controlling these two choke points and isolating movement of Saudi oil except through the Suez Canal along with diminishing their regional influence. This would put Iran and Russia in a very dominate position considering the current weak and spineless US administration which will likely be followed by the same policies after the election.

Personally I think we are dealing with a repeat of the late 1930s and a devastating war in the future.
I don't think it's beyond the pale to think that Iran/Russia are looking to make Saudi Arabia a land-locked country. I don't think it's beyond the pale this could happen within the next 36 months. Remember: Hillary supports Iran. Congress recently overrode President's only veto in his presidency, voting against Saudi Arabia.

More on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait here and it's strategic significance.

More On The RSP Permian Deal In The Delaware Basin -- October 15, 2016

Remember that story about RSP Permian paying $60,000/Permian acre? Bloomberg over at Rigzone weighs in. Data points:
  • a record deal
  • in the biggest oil field in the US
  • Bloomberg calculates $45,000/ace -- a price never seen before in the western section of the Permian known as the Delaware Basin
  • acquisition costs in the Delaware Basin are creeping close to the more prolific Midland Basin 100 miles to the east
Freeport-McMoRan To Sell Onshore California Oil And Gas Assets

Data points:
  • will sell assets to Sentinel Peak Resources California
  • $742 million; hardly makes a dent in world's largest listed copper miner's debt (almost $20 billion)
  • this quote from the article: "high-cost, heavily-regulated California market"

Week 41: October 9, 2016 -- October 15, 2016

The past week: Forbes reports that Saudi Arabia continues to burn through cash and economic collapse is actually possible. Saudi's lack of cash has radically changed the "landscape" of the Mideast.

The top story of the week, however, was a non-story: North Dakota's crude oil production dropped below one million bopd.

A reminder: EIA changed reporting methods on crude oil storage this past week. Art Berman, over at Forbes, discusses crude oil storage in the US.

For me, personally, I think this was the big story of the week: Update of a re-entered Madison well in Stockyard Creek.

Will the number of active rigs in North Dakota drop below 30?
Top 20 fields in the Williston Basin
Follow-up on Whiting wells that were taken off-line
Halcon reports a huge well; 56 stages; 6.7 million lbs sand 
In four days, a Gadeco well produced 10,000 bbls of oil after being "inactive"f for over two years
Abraxas reports six DUCs completed in North Fork oil field
MRO "re-covers" a lousy well
MRO's Juanita USA well produces 67,000 bbls of oil in first month of full production
A Silurian well goes over one million bbls of crude oil production; still producing after 34 years
Zavanna's Gust well in Long Creek looks like it is back to normal
Updating a Gadeco well in Epping oil field
Another Bakken update by Filloon
Updates on DUCs 

The fracking sand story
Shipment of frack sand to Texas sets record
EOG is a winner with a new well design
DUCs to the rescue
High-intensity fracks
Results of a re-entered, re-fracked BR well

A sixth pipeline company wants to tap into the DAPL
Update on natural gas pipelines into Mexico

Natural gas
Bear Creek NG processing plant near Killdeer has been completed 

Bakken economy
Ground breaking for new Williston area airport: $2,000/acre farmland bought for $9,000/acre 
Williams County high school graduates still go to college for free 

Permian acreage still selling for $60,000 acre
Kemper plant makes power with gas from coal for the first time: Obama's one energy success story
List of potential US LNG export facilities
Staggering: the building out of US LNG export projects
Why Canada needs more diluent, and where they will get it
Update on natural gas processing and fractionation additions in Alberta
Not that it matters, but atmospheric CO2 decreases month-over-month; back to baseline
Prime real estate along scenic Little Missouri River in the Badlands sells for less than $2,000/acre

Even The WSJ Fails When Trying To Be Politically Correct -- October 15, 2016

Today's "Review" section leads off with a story that takes almost two full pages, including a space-wasting drawing of a lion, that reminds me of Hillary with Trump's bouffant.

The headline: why the economy doesn't roar anymore.

The thesis: the long boom after WWII left Americans with unrealistic expectations, but there's no gling back to the unusual circumstances of that Golden Age.

The thesis: productivity growth -- the key to economic growth isn't something a president can decree.

The thesis: We have precious little idea how to stimulate innovation.

My comment: what a bunch of crap.

Here's the link:

Look for these words or phrases in article:
  • patent law -- not there
  • drill -- not there
  • ObamaCare -- not there
  • health care -- not there
  • Apple -- not there
  • Uber -- not there
  • Silicon Valley -- not there
  • regulations -- not there
  • Amazon -- not there
  • Musk -- not there
What the hell is this article about when those ten examples are nowhere to be found in the article.

I did not even bother looking for "US shale revolution."

President Obama, what he meant to say: We can't just drill our way to lower gas prices, we also have to frack. With a "k."

Mark Levinson: doofus.

The Apple Page

When the new Apple iPhone was launched, one selection was over-subscribed, and Apple took a beating in the "public relations" department over that.

But no longer: the iPhone Jet Black is now widely available across the US. They said that Tim Cook's forte was logistics. This is another bullet in his resume validating his abilities.

In one month, Tim Cook turned a shortage around into a surplus. Good for him.

And then this. This is so cool. Apple stores continue to be streamlined. Models will no longer be tethered for security reasons. Customers can now pick up an Apple SmartPhone, hold it without an tethering cord, stick it in one's pocket to see what it feels like. Incredibly clever. Again. Courage.

Wow! Finally -- FAA Bans All Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Firephones From All US Flights -- October 15, 2016

From Macrumors. This certainly took a long time. The government stepped in only AFTER Samsung had already told all users to power down, and certainly not use them on aircraft. Talk about the tail wagging the dog.

The language:
Individuals who own or possess a Samsung Galaxy Note7 device may not transport the device on their person, in carry-on baggage, or in checked baggage on flights to, from, or within the United States. This prohibition includes all Samsung Galaxy Note7 devices.
Wow. The FAA says "safety of all passengers" must take priority over "inconvenience of the few."
 We recognize that banning these phones from airlines will inconvenience some passengers, but the safety of all those aboard an aircraft must take priority," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "We are taking this additional step because even one fire incident inflight poses a high risk of severe personal injury and puts many lives at risk.
I guess for the FAA, at some point, #AllLivesMatter. 

It should be noted that for months, the FAA let folks make their own decision regarding "inconvenience" vs "safety."

Remember this?

Those Shrinking Pacific Islands Due To Global Warming?

They are actually increasing in size.
Once a year or so, journalists from major news outlets travel to the Marshall Islands, a remote chain of volcanic islands and coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean, to report in panicked tones that the island nation is vanishing because of climate change. Their dispatches are often filled with raw emotion and suggest that residents are fleeing atolls swiftly sinking into the sea.
Yet new research shows that this is not the entire—or even an accurate—picture. Acknowledging this doesn’t mean that global warming isn’t real, or that world leaders and scientists shouldn’t tackle the adverse effects of climate change, but hype and exaggeration serve no one.
Using historic aerial photographs and high-resolution satellite imagery, Auckland University scientists Murray Ford and Paul Kench recently analyzed shoreline changes on six atolls and two mid-ocean reef islands in the Marshall Islands. Their peer-reviewed study, published in the September 2015 issue of Anthropocene, revealed that since the middle of the 20th century the total land area of the islands has actually grown.
How is that possible? It seems self-evident that rising sea levels will reduce land area. However, there is a process of accretion, where coral broken up by the waves washes up on these low-lying islands as sand, counteracting the reduction in land mass. Research shows that this process is overpowering the erosion from sea-level rise, leading to net land-area gain.
This is not only true for the Marshall Islands. The researchers write that within the “recently emerging body of shoreline change studies on atoll islands there is little evidence of widespread reef island erosion. To the contrary, several studies have documented noteworthy shoreline progradation [growth] and positional changes of islands since the mid-20th century, resulting in a net increase in island area.” The most famous of these studies, published in 2010 by Paul Kench and Arthur Webb of the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission in Fiji, showed that of 27 Pacific islands, 14% lost area. Yet 43% gained area, with the rest remaining stable.
It was also noted that atmospheric CO2 has decreased month-over-month, and is now back to baseline.

See How Many Inconsistencies, Omissions, Lies, Examples Of Hyperbole You Can Find In This Story

And then this, the "big story" over at the AP: global deal reached to limit powerful greenhouse gases.

Data points:
  • caps and reduces the use of HFCs 
  • legally binding unlike the broader  Paris agreement (if legally binding, I would think Congress needs to approve)
But this is what this "treaty" is all about, buried in the story, sending money to from the US to third world countries under the guise of controlling HFCs:
The U.N. says the next meeting in 2017 will determine how much of the billions of dollars needed to finance the reduction of HFCs will be provided by countries.
And that is why the island nations wanted the "treaty" to kick in sooner than later:
Small island states (see story above) and many African countries had pushed for early timeframes, saying they face the biggest threat from climate change.
Now the hyperbole:
  • environmentalists wanted an agreement that would reduce global warming by one-half-degree Celsius
  • this agreement, they say, gets them 90% of the way there -- I guess a reduction 0.45 degree Celsius in the average global temperature
  • this agreement is equal to stopping the entire world's fossil-fuel CO2 emissions for more than two years
  • this will cut the global levels of HFCs by 80 to 85% by 2047
Such fluff.

By the way, the HFC deal is the lead story in The WSJ. It will be interesting to see how many billions the US sends a couple of scam artists in the Pacific. 

The Obama Legacy In The Mideast -- October 15, 2016

The phrases that come to mind when thinking about the Mideast and Obama's eight years as president:
  • withdrawal of US troops from the region
  • creating a vacuum
  • lack of interest in the region
  • self-described "no-drama Obama"
  • a chess game: Putin vs Obama
  • Obama: "red lines"
  • Putin: no "red lines" 
  • ISIS: the JV team
  • Yemen: poster child for democracy
  • Saudi Arabia's security no longer a US responsibility
  • throwing allies under the bus
The resulting legacy:
  • the vacuum resulted in ISIS
  • the vacuum resulted in loss of "western coalition" gains in Afghanistan and Iraq
  • first president to be at war (in fact, two wars) for his entire presidency
  • resurgence of Russian influence in the Mideast
Going forward.
  • Putin will still be in office after Obama leaves office in about three months
  • it's hard to believe Putin will give up gains he has made in the Mideast any time soon
  • Putin looks to be putting the Russian empire back together again; Alexander the Great comes to mind; it looks like Putin is not afraid of a new Cold War
  • ISIS may or may not remain a credible force, but Putin will 
  • US no longer dependent on OPEC oil or constrained by OPEC policies
I thought about all that after seeing this story in today's Wall Street Journal: "Egypt Juggles Its Allegiances As Russian Influence SURGES."

Note the word SURGES. Not "increases," or "grow," but SURGES.

I remember during the early years of the Cold War, "Egypt was a client of the USSR." That changed in the 70's when the US started providing significant economic and military aid to Egypt. Putin took advantage of two "events":
  • President Obama distanced himself from the Middle East
  • Saudi Arabia can no longer support Egypt financially
From the linked WSJ article:
Balancing acts are precarious by definition and, as Egypt is finding out, even a small move can have cascading consequences.
Until recently, Cairo managed to maintain strong relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies that provide it with tens of billions of dollars in aid, while also cultivating warm ties with Russia and staying away from Saudi-led efforts to topple the Syrian regime.
Then last Saturday, Egypt had to vote on a Russian-sponsored United Nations Security Council resolution favored by the Syrian regime. Alone among Muslim nations on the Security Council, it decided to support the Russian draft, which received only four out of 15 votes and failed to pass. The same day Russia vetoed a separate resolution drafted by France and backed by 11 Council members.
By the way, no one has yet commented on this: generally the US GDP rises when it is at war. Despite being at war during his entire presidency, President Obama was also the first president in modern history to never preside over a year with 3% growth -- not even during the energy revolution early in his presidency. Wow. Sounds like thesis material for a budding US Nobel Laureate in Economics.

The Fracking Sand Story

Start with this: each hopper car carries 100 tons of fracking sand.

When you see a 100-unit train carrying sand, that amount of sand will frack one Permian well, maybe five Bakken wells at most.

Some data points for newbies:
  • the shale revolution began with fracking sand, maybe 500,000 pounds per well in one stage. BEXP broke new ground when they began routinely using 4 million lbs to frack a well. Since then, EOG has taken the lead. 
  • EOG is using upwards of 30 million lbs of sand to frack a well in the Permian, others using similar amounts in the STACK.
  • operators in the Bakken appear to be using about 8 million lbs as the standard, though there are outliers, mostly at 10 million lbs, but there are some Bakken wells fracked with as much as 20 million lbs (rare).
  • there appears to be a movement away from ceramic (incredibly expensive)
  • one rail hopper car can carry 100 tons of fracking sand.
  • a unit train is generally 115 cars. Some are as long as 130 cars.
  • it takes 4 - 5 18-wheelers to empty a single hopper car.
  • 30 million lbs of sand (one Permian well) / 200,000 lbs (hopper car) = 150 hopper cars = 750 18-wheelers (5 trucks per rail car). 
  • 4 million lbs of sand (one Bakken well) / 200,000 lbs (hopper car) = 20 hopper cars = 100 18-wheelers (5 trucks per rail car).
 I often make simple arithmetic errors. Let me know if I've made an error here.


If any links below are broken or wrong, please let me know. 

Previous posts on fracking sand and the takeaway. This represents only a fraction of all the posts in which fracking sand is a significant topic:

January 27, 2017: fracking sand use will double from current levels by 2018.

October 15, 2016: HAL, US Silica set rail frack sand record; 19,000 tons to Texas on one train.

August 20, 2016: STACK, Delaware and Midland use up to 30 million lbs of sand / well -- Filloon

August 6, 2016: mega-fracks; from 2004 to 2013, operators increased proppant usage by 636% in North Dakota.

August 4, 2016: 30 million lbs of proppant/well in the Permian -- Filloon

August 3, 2016: 30 million lbs of proppant/well -- Bloomberg

July 23, 2016: despite slump, frack sand producers are spending millions to increase production

April 19, 2016: ceramic proppant demand is down 49% year-over-year -- Filloon

November 9, 2015: increased volumes of fracking sand being ordered?

July 6, 2015: UNP sets frack sand shipment record; 130-unit train.

June 9, 2015: EOG uses almost 20 million lbs in a typical long lateral.

May 27, 2015: locations and sources for fracking sand.

December 7, 2014: energy demands driving rail car industry backlog.

October 21, 2014: operators stockpiling sand.

October 21, 2014: a small trucking company in Minnesota is trucking 52 loads of fracking sand / day from Wisconsin, 7 days/week, which translates into almost 2.5 million lbs of sand on a daily basis from one trucking company.

September 23, 2014: monster sand off-loading and storage site at Richardton, ND

September 22, 2014: ceramic vs sand.

September 12, 2014: update on Richardton frack sand terminal; some key dates.

September 5, 2014: update on fracking sand in the Bakken.

August 26, 2014: transportation costs for Wisconsin fracking sand.

June 10, 2014: the cost of mining frack sand in Illinois.

June 10, 2014: Dakota Plains Holdings frack sand transloading facility, New Town, ND

June 7, 2014: fracking sand in southwestern South Dakota.

June 7, 2014: increasing amounts of frack sand generate rail, truck activity.

April 21, 2014: another source of frack sand? Illinois?

April 17, 2014: frack sand spurs grain-like silos for rail transport.

February 24, 2014: another staggering EOG well in the Bakken; 54 stages; 17 million lbs of sand.

January 23, 2014: railroad renaissance -- Forbes.

December 3, 2013: in fracking, sand is the new gold. 

October 21, 2013: price of fracking sand could go parabolic -- Filloon.

August 29, 2013: government looking at new rule for regulating fracking sand.

August 21, 2013: the Minnesota experience.

August 20, 2013: a monster EOG well; 49 stages; 10 million lbs of sand.

July 5, 2013: Wisconson's fracking sand -- National Geographic.

June 5, 2013: Canadian National Railway advancing timeline on rail upgrades to accommodate bigger rail sand cars.

June 2, 2013: it's all about sand. EOG, Eagle Ford completion techniques moving to the Bakken -- Filloon.

May 14, 2013: fracking sand, the Minnesota experience.

March 1, 2013: sand mining surges in Wisconsin.

October 28, 2012: how big is the Minnesota/Wisconsin fracking sand story? Huge.

August 21, 2012: EOG with another huge well; 9 million lbs of sand.

July 29, 2012: nice human interest story from Wisconsin.

July 23, 2012: fracking sand operations doubled in Wisconsin.

June 11, 2012: random comment on fracking/ceramics.

May 14, 2012: fracking sand in Minnesota, Wisconsin.

December 29, 2011: amount of sand used to frack a well can be staggering: 4 million lbs.

December 26, 2011: Ohio has the perfect fracking sand.

November 25, 2011: Frack sand specs.

April 23, 2011: Minnesota may have the sand needed to frack wells in the Bakken.

This may have been the first post in which I mentioned "fracking sand":

October 25, 2009 -- EOG.  

Shipment Of Frack Sand To Texas Sets Record -- October 15, 2016

Halliburton, US Silica claim 19,000-ton frack sand haul is a record.

Link here.

Data points:
  • 19,000 tons of frack sand
  • single train from Illinois to Texas
  • probably set a North American record
  • BNSF rail from Ottawa, IL, to Halliburton's South Texas Sand Plant in Elmendorf, TX
  • five days to assemble (load)
  • largest shipment of its kind
  • Elmendorf, TX, in Bexar County
  • terminal can handle 115-car trains
  • silos can hold 40,000 tons (80 million pounds -- enough to frack 2 or 3 Permian wells)
19,000 tons = 38 million lbs.

A Permian well: fracked with 30 million lbs. This one unit train that set a record -  will provide enough sand to frack 1.3 Permian wells.

It took five days to load that train with all that sand.

Update On The Sunni Caliphate: ISIS -- Aleppo And Mosul -- October 15, 2016

Again, I've lost the bubble on ISIS; the importance of Mosul and Aleppo; and, Kurdistan. This is for my benefit only; it has nothing to do with the Bakken.

If you came here looking for the Bakken, scroll down, or go to the sidebar at the right.


April 3, 2017: BBC update -- again, a very nice update with many maps. Allied forces have taken eastern Mosul and are ready to attack western Mosul. Western Mosul is expected to be much more difficult: more densely populated; civilians pro-ISIS. And, of course, ISIS militants using civilians as shields. One can assume an energy/food/weapons blockade will severely hurt ISIS.

December 2, 2016: the Sunni caliphate footprint continues to shrink. Nice map.

Part Four
Syria Update

See the post; at the link, scroll to the bottom.

With Turkey having taken Afrin and about to take Eastern Ghouta, Syria now has three local groups supported by foreign sponsors: Assad's Syrians/Russia; Kurdish Syrians/US; and, now Turkish Syrians. One needs to look at the current situation in Syria and this new analysis (the war will go on for at least another four years until a stable balance of forces is established) and then think about Trump's "plan" to pull out of Syria sooner than later.

Part Three
Update On Kurdistan

Link here.

Part Two

"Part Two" below is about Aleppo and Mosul and appeared in recent issue of The Economist. "Part One" was from a long piece on the Sunni Caliphate (ISIS) from London Book Review back in March, 2016, which provided the background to how we arrived where we are today.

The Spanish Civil War as a proxy conflict between major world powers comes to mind.

Where we stand, October 15, 2016, from The Economist

The Sunni Caliphate (IS) Outcome May Well Be Determined By What Happens In Aleppo, Mosul

  • in the entire region of the Fertile Crescent, from the Mediterranean to the Gulf, the brunt of war for the most part sustained by the Sunnis
  • the Sunnis: the largest ethnic group, heirs of fabled empires; many of their cities now in the hands of others
    • Jerusalem: held by the Jews
    • Beirut: held by Christians and Shias
    • Damascus: held by the Alawites
    • Baghdad: held by Shias
  • where Sunnis do hold power they feel a) encircled; and, b) abandoned by the US
  • the Sunnis' sense that they are assailed from all sides helps to explain how the jihadists of Islamic State (IS), offering to help the ancient caliphate, were able to take over vast Sunni-populated areas in Syria and Iraq
  • nothing will be complete until the Sunnis' dispossession is dealt with
  • right now the future of the region is being decided in two venerable cities: Aleppo and Mosul
    • Aleppo: the last urban redoubt of the Syrian rebellion against Mr Assad
    • Mosul: IS's most prized possession in Iraq
  • Russia is helping Assad; the Iranian and Shia allies pound the besieged Sunni rebels
  • it appears Russia/Assad's goal is to take the entire city before Obama leaves office in three months
  • even if Russia/Assad "win", Aleppo will "never" be the same
  • a loss would deal a blow to IS: it was from there that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the IS leader, declared his caliphate
  • better outcome possible
  • Iraqi, Kurdish, local Sunni forces, and America closing in on Mosul
  • Turkey is complicating things; wants to be part of the coalition (of course: to keep an eye on the Kurds)
  • operations to retake Mosul begin this month 
  • The Economist argues that Iraq could provide new model of devolved power
  • Mosul offers a chance to convince beleaguered Sunnis that there is a better alternative to the nihilism of jihad
 Part One

Original Post, March 10, 2014, link here.

End Times for the Caliphate (IS / Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi)
Kurdistan, Rojava, and ISIS

This was from the London Review of Books, March 3, 2016. 

The war in Syria and in Iraq have produced two new de facto states in the last five years and enabled a third quasi-state greatly to expand its territory and power.

The two new states are two separate Kurdish states, one to the west (Syria) and one to the east (Iraq). Neither are recognized internationally but they are stronger militarily and politically than most members of the UN.

Both states are very, very small in population.

17 million Kurds live in Turkey.

The three states:

  • the caliphate: ISIS -- eastern Syria / western Iraq
  • Rojava: Syrian Kurds (PYD) along Syrian / Turkish border (rojava means "west")
  • Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG): northern Iraq along Iraqi / Turkish border
For me, this is how I will keep track of them:
  • ISIS
  • Rojava (Syria) -- 2.2 million -- surrounded by much larger states
  • Kurdistan (Iraq) -- 6 million
The three states -- origin and geography:
  • ISIS: established itself in the summer of 2014 after capturing Mosul and defeating the Iraqi army
  • Rojava: the Syrian Kurds who filled the vacuum when the Syrian Army withdrew in 2012; west of the Tigris; across northern Syria between the Euphrates and the Tigris; along Syrian-Turkish border
  • KRG: Kurdish Regional Government; had been highly autonomous; took advantage of IS's destruction of Baghdad's authority in northern Iraq; expanded territory 40% -- south toward Baghdad to include the Kirkuk oilfields 
The question as discussed by Cockburn: will any of these "states" persist after the current conflict is over.

Cockburn gives short shrift to ISIS: "The Islamic State is likely to be destroyed eventually ... though its adherents will remain a force in Iraq, Syria, and the rest of the Islamic world.

So, it comes back to the age-old battle between the two Kurdish divisions AND the age-old battle between Kurdistan and Turkey AND Kurdistan and outside forces (US and Russia).

Urban Centers
Extent of Two Kurdish States: About 600 miles west to east

Along the Turkish border (Syria/Rojava)
  • Afrin, about 50 miles northwest of Aleppo; key transit city across Turkish border; current flashpoint between Turkey and the PKK/Rojava
  • Kobani, northeast of Aleppo; on the Euphrates river; key to Rojava/PYD/PKK -- see below)
  • Tal Abyad -- key to linking two of three enclaves (Kobani and Qamishi)
  • Hasak
  • Qamishi
Along the Turkish border (Iraq/Kurdistan)
  • Sinjar
  • Erbil (about 50 miles east of Mosul)
  • Kirkuk
  • Sulaymaniyah
  • Halabja (on Iranian border) 
Caliphate (ISIS may or may not hold these cities); all to the northeast of Damascus, or north of Baghdad
  • Aleppo: Syria
  • Raqqa: Syria (currently held by ISIS) (on the Euphrates River); capital cityof ISIS -- self-declared; about 80 miles due east (slightly southeast) of Aleppo)
  • Manbij: on road to Raqqa in Syria; "allies" re-take Manbij, August, 2016
  • Mosul: back and for between ISIS and Kurds; on the Tigris
  • Tikrit: midway between Mosul and Baghdad; on the Tigris
  • Ramadi: on the Euphrates, west of Baghdad, west of Falujah
  • Fallujah: on the Euphrates, between Ramadi and Baghdad
Rivers, Borders, and Boundaries
  • Neither major river separates Syria/Iraq; no natural boundary between northern Syria/northern Iraq
  • Euphrates cuts northern Syria in half
  • Tigris cuts northern Iraq in half
  • Syria reaches the Mediterranean Sea; small seacoast between Lebanon and Turkey

The West: Rojavo/PKK/PYD/SDF
  • Turkish response: belligerent in tone; ambivalent in practice
  • it appears that current conflict, starting with Kurdish uprising in 2011, resulted in resurgence of PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) which Turkey has been fighting since 1984
  • the ruling party in Rojava is PYD (Democratic Union Party)
  • so, PYD = PKK
  • IS finally defeated in Syrian city of Kobani: Rojava expanded territorially in every direction
  • by capturing Tal Abyad last June, Rojava/PKK/PYD linked up two of its three most important enclaves (Kobania nd Qamishli)
  • now working to link up Afrin on the far west
  • Turkey has drawn a line in the sand at the Euphrates but seems uneasy to act
  • Rojava's Arab proxy militia: Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
  • SDF crosses Euphrates and Turkey does not respond: US + Russia --> a/s on ISIS in that area
  • Key area of concern now: narrow corridor between Aleppo (once Syria's 2nd largest city) and Turkish border (Afrin) -- if opposition cut off -- the Sunni states of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar -- will have failed to overthrow Bashar al-Assad.
  • if the "allies" fail, Rojavo/PKK/PYD/SD becomes that much stronger; 17 million Kurds
  • Turkey wants to intervene, but Turkey would be fighting: US, Russia, Iran, Syrian Army, PYD, and IS (LOL)
  • Turkey's only allies: Saudi Arabia and a few Gulf monarchies
  • this is the area where Turkey shot down a Russian bomber; carefully planned; Russia responded by setting up "permanent" bases in this area (Turkey: one meager step forward; result: stomped on by Russian)
  • US + Russia: begrudging/suspicious but supporting the Kurds, and not the Turks in this area
Kurdistan / KRG / Iraqi Kurdish state
  • once considered the "new Dubai" with its oil fields
  • now Kurdistan is a failed nation; a disaster; its rich folks trying to get to the west
  • Kurdistan: an economic disaster; low oil prices have led to the debacle; government taking to stealing bankers' money; has nothing but oil for revenue; nothing indigenous -- imports vegetables
  • Kurdistan: before ISIS, before the plummet in oil prices was becoming more independent; now Kurdistan looking to Baghdad for help
The Caliphate is similarly falling
  • loses Manjib, August, 2016
  • defeated at Kobani: IS now changing tactics -- not fighting to last man to save its territory but it may do so in Raqqa (Syria) and Mosul (Iraq)
  • conditions in the Caliphate unbearable (a holocaust by any other name)
  • people smuggled out of Mosul say IS is buckling; fled Mosul to safe refuge in Rojava -- this is where the migrants are coming from -- from rich Kurdistan oil regions to Rojava into Turkey and on to Greece
  • IS opponents have captured/re-captured: Sinjar, Ramadi, Tikrit (Iraq) and closing in on Raqqa (Syria)
  • Ramadi: still in contention
  • YPG, Syrian army, Iraqi armed forces, and Peshmerga: inadequate supplies against IS, but can call in Russian and US devastating air support
How the two Kurdish states see this playing out
  • the allies (YPG, Syrian army, Iraqi armed forces, Peshmerga, Russia, US) will ultimately prevail
  • once IS defeated once and for all, Kurds concerned Baghdad will again turn against Kurdistan; Damascus will turn against Rojava
Last comments (mine)
  • Iran, the 800-pound gorilla, not mentioned in the article
  • Assad (Syria) given new lease on life with US + Russia emphasis on taking out IS
  • Sunni allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia stymied in taking out Syria (Iranian proxy?)
  • when it's all over, who gets Kirkuk's oil fields? Kurdistan or Baghdad
  • when IS is taken out, how much longer do Russia + US stick around? 
  • one wonders if after IS, if Russia (pro-Iran) and US (anti-Iran) get back to where they were before IS
  • it looks like the current situation has "destroyed" any progress Kurdistan had made in previous 50 years
  • Turkey is becoming more and more repressive; is it feeling the stress; it looks like while Kurdistan might be failing, Turkey's real Kurdish nemesis, the PKK (Rojava) is gaining strength
Note: greater Kurdistan
  • west Kurdistan: Rojava, northern Syria
  • east Kurdistan: northwestern Iran 
  • northern Kurdistan: southern/southeastern Turkey
  • southern Kurdistan: northern Iraq (military forces - Peshmerga)

Saudi Arabia Continues To Burn Through Cash; Economic Collapse Possible -- Forbes -- October 15, 2016

Link here.
  • 92% of its revenue from oil sales
  • 2015: record-breaking budget deficit, $98 billion
  • 2016: budget deficit estimated to be $87 billion
  • forced to raise cash in first international bond sale, $16.5 bilion
  • Saudi Aramco IPO, 2018, valued at $2 trillion 
  • Saudi's population: nearly 30% less than 15 years of age
Tea leaves suggest deal will be announced in November, but there's no way the deal will be enforced, and even if it was (enforced), it would have effect. A 1% cut against what Canada and the US can produce is meaningless.