Crossfire War – Fighting in Basra Disrupts Oil Exports-Price Per Barrel Increase

Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – NAJAF – BAGHDAD WATCH – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – El Arish – Ramallah – Damascus – Beirut – Gaza – Najaf – Baghdad/Basra – London – Washington – Jerusalem – Cairo – Amman – Paris – Rome; Fighting in Basra Disrupts Oil Exports – Explosion at Zubair-1 Pipeline – Fighting Extends into Third Day to Other Cities in Iraq South – Heavy Qassam Fire Resumes from Gaza

Night Watch: ZUBAIR-1 – It was only a matter of time but the fighting in Basra has now affected oil exports with the explosion Wednesday at the Zubair-1 pipeline causing a fire and reducing exports. Bloomberg/AP report the disruption had an immediate effect on crude oil prices, increasing the costs by $1.80, 1.7% to $107.00 a barrel. “A set back like this and the militia activity in the last two days makes hope for long term peace and supply look fragile. We’d only just got used to Iraq supply becoming more reliable.” That was a quote from Robert Laughlin a senior broker at the London based MF Global Ltd. This is exactly the kind of economic consequences Tehran wants the West and industrialized world to confront, Iran’s main economic weapon and without one tanker being hit yet in the Persian Gulf. Mike Wittner, head of oil research at Societe Generale SA London stated, “Iraq exports have been quite steady for the last six months. So the crude markets will feel the loss of these supplies. A lot of crude is at risk.” Most of Iraq’s 2.32 million of barrels per day are exported through Basra and of course continued fighting is designed to cut off the exports completely. 10,000 police are assigned to protect the pipelines. [BLOOMBERG]

On Feb. 15, 2006 reported the estimate of Peter Brooks, head of the National Security Foundation and Center for Asian Studies in Washington, his expecting the price of crude oil to reach $200.00 a barrel when full scale war begins with Iran. It is a war Tehran has planned in stages and they are aware it will require more than Iran entering the war against Israel to inflict massive economic consequences on its main enemy the West. It will also require more than this explosion at Zubair-1 and with this sudden increase in fighting all over southern Iraq indicates Tehran wants full scale war to begin before 2008 is half over, unless Washington and the West can ignore attacks against Allied bases in Iraq, Persian Gulf and south Lebanon.

Kazimiyah – There were two massive demonstrations in support of radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army in the northern Baghdad district of Kazimiyah and Sadr City. Asharq al-Awsat/AP report in Kazimiyah the tens of thousands of demonstrators carried a coffin decorated with a crossed out picture of Iraq Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. They called him a “new dictator” while in Sadr City, what some described as a “sea of people,” chanted anti-government slogans as a Mahdi Army representative demanded an end to military operations and for the Prime Minister’s resignation. But I suspect Sheik Salman al-Feraiji has been informed al-Maliki is playing his part, choreographed by Tehran, to make his last stand at Basra as the Iraq Army is increasingly overwhelmed as the fighting continues to spread even though the Mahdi Army and its 60,000 members are not yet fully engaged. The deadline for Shia militias to ceasefire or face “severe consequences” is tomorrow and the consequences could mean al-Maliki calling on the UK/US to intervene which would of course increase the trap of Iraq for the occupation forces which is exactly what Iran wants. [ASHARQALAWSAT]

Tikrit – In the mean time the International Green Zone continues to be hit by heavy mortar-rocket fire for the fourth day this week. Sixteen rockets were counted Wednesday with casualties now being caused on a regular basis including an American financial analyst Sunday. For the first time, since this latest wave of fighting erupted Monday, Al Jazeera is reporting the war has spread north of the capital to Tikrit a hundred miles from Baghdad. The U. S. has now entered with air strikes in Hillah as there are battles in: Kut, Diwaniyah and Amara. [ALJAZEERA]

Ashkelon – “All the talk of a lull in attacks from Gaza is misleading. Today’s event’s prove this.” That was an angry quote from Mayor Eli Moyal of Sderot as he was speaking to INN Wednesday night after twenty Qassam rockets were fired at his city from northern Gaza. Other rockets were fired at Ashkelon 12 miles to the north and fell short of the oil terminal based there. Mayor Moyal’s use of the word “misleading” is extremely appropriate since that is the modus operandi of Tehran’s foreign policy. It should not be surprising Tehran has timed these rockets attacks with the new fighting in Iraq. Iran wants Israel to be occupied with its Gaza offensive, then against Hezbollah-Syria to Israel’s north as Washington becomes occupied with the new fighting in Iraq. That will prevent Israel and the U. S. from conducting any joint operations against Syria-Iran. [INN]

Willard Payne is an international affairs analyst who specializes in International Relations. A graduate of Western Illinois University with a concentration in East-West Trade and East-West Industrial Cooperation, he has been providing incisive analysis to NewsBlaze. He is the author of Imagery: The Day Before.