Militants Seize Iraq Border Post, Kill 30 Troops
Sunni militants have seized an Iraqi crossing on the border with Syria after a daylong battle in which they killed some 30 Iraqi troops, security officials said Saturday.
The capture of the Qaim border crossing deals a further blow to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, which has struggled to push back against Islamic extremists and allied militants who have seized large swaths of the country, including the second largest city Mosul, and who have vowed to march on Baghdad.
Police and army officials said the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and allied militants seized the crossing near the border town of Qaim, about 320 kilometers (200 miles) west of Baghdad, after battling Iraqi troops all day Friday.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media, said people were now crossing back and forth freely.
Sunni militants have carved out a large fiefdom astride the Iraqi-Syrian border and have long traveled back and forth with ease, but the control of crossings allows them to more easily move weapons and heavy equipment to different battlefields.
The fall of the border crossing came as al-Maliki faces mounting pressure to form an inclusive government or step aside, with both a top Shiite cleric and the White House strongly hinting he is in part to blame for the worst crisis since U.S. troops withdrew from the country at the end of 2011.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most respected voice for Iraq’s Shiite majority, on Friday joined calls for al-Maliki to reach out to the Kurdish and Sunni minorities a day after President Barack Obama challenged him to create a leadership representative of all Iraqis.
Al-Sistani normally stays above the political fray, and his comments, delivered through a representative, could ultimately seal al-Maliki’s fate.
Calling for a dialogue between the political coalitions that won seats in the April 30 parliamentary election, al-Sistani said it was imperative that they form “an effective government that enjoys broad national support, avoids past mistakes and opens new horizons toward a better future for all Iraqis.”
Al-Sistani is deeply revered by Iraq’s majority Shiites, and his critical words could force al-Maliki, who emerged from relative obscurity in 2006 to lead the country, to step down.
On Thursday, Obama stopped short of calling for al-Maliki to resign, but his carefully worded comments did all but that. “Only leaders that can govern with an inclusive agenda are going to be able to truly bring the Iraqi people together and help them through this crisis,” Obama said.
The Iranian-born al-Sistani, believed to be 86, lives in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad, where he rarely ventures out of his modest house and does not give media interviews. His call to arms last week prompted thousands of Shiites to volunteer to fight against the Sunni militants.
His call to defend the country has given the fight against the Sunni insurgents the feel of a religious war, but his office in Najaf dismissed that charge, saying the top cleric was addressing all Iraqis.
Iraq unrest may lead to $15-20 per barrel rise in oil price in 2 months
NEW DELHI: Exporters body FIEO today said the unabated turmoil in Iraq may lead to a spike in oil prices by $ 15 to 20 a barrel in the next couple of months, adding to inflationwoes and jacking up India’s oil import bill.
India imports about 25 million tonnes of oil from Iraq each year. Militants pressing a major offensive in Iraq attacked Iraq’s biggest oil refinery today, pushing up Brent for August settlement to about $ 113.60 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.
“If war-like situation in Iraq continues then it may push the oil price up by $ 15-20 per barrel in next couple of months. The crude prices have already touched $ 113 per barrel which may add to an additional $ 4-5 billion on oil imports besides pushing inflation,” Federation of Indian Exports Organisations (FIEO) President M Rafeeque Ahmed said.
India’s bilateral trade with Iraq stood at $ 19.4 billion with imports contributing to $ 18.5 billion while exports were $ 0.9 billion in 2013-14. India’s exports to the West Asian nation consists mainly cereals, machinery, iron & steel, pharma, meat products and ceramics.
The government announced host of measures yesterday to tame inflation, which soared to a five-month high of 6.01 per cent in May.
The exports (to Iraq) have already suffered a decline of 28 per cent in 2013-14 as compared to 2012-13 primarily on account of drop in export of iron & steel, sugar and petroleum products, FIEO said.