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Oil prices advance over militant violence in Iraq

LONDON -- Oil prices rose on Wednesday as dealers tracked fresh violence in Iraq — where militants have attacked the nation's main refinery — and awaited the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest monetary policy decision.

Brent crude for August delivery added three cents to US$113.48 per barrel just after midday.

U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate for July delivery reversed 41 cents to US$106.77 a barrel.

"Brent crude has strengthened, driven by continued supply fears deriving from ongoing and escalating violence in Iraq," said Dorian Lucas, an analyst at British-based energy consultancy Inenco.

"Brent crude could see further gains intraday as news emerges that one of Iraq's largest oil fields is under siege by Islamist led militants; already having withstood mortar and machine gun fire.

"It is reported that so far the siege has resulted with the destruction of some oil stores, the full extent of which is not yet apparent."

Baiji Refinery Under Attack

Militants attacked Iraq's biggest oil refinery on Wednesday, as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki scrambled to regain the initiative by sacking security commanders and reaching out to political rivals.

The crisis, which has displaced hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, threatens to carve up the country while the assault on the Baiji oil refinery early Wednesday will likely further spook international oil markets.

From about 4 a.m. (0100 GMT), clashes erupted at the refinery complex in Salaheddin province, north of Baghdad.

The United States, which is mulling air strikes against the insurgents, said it believed Baghdad's security forces were rallying against the assault, while Iran pledged not to let Shiite shrines in Iraq fall to the Sunni Arab militants leading the charge.

The Iranian vow follow a call by top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for Iraqis to volunteer to resist the onslaught spearheaded by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who hold the major cities of Mosul and Tikrit and are fighting north of the capital.

"Today's militant attack on Iraq's main refinery in Baiji risks cutting off supply of gasoline and diesel to northern Iraq and also provides a source of fuel for ISIL and its supporters," said Rebecca O'Keeffe, head of investment at stockbroker Interactive Investor.

"The impact to global supply from the attack in Baiji is limited, however, if the ISIS forces continue to make progress toward Baghdad and onto Iraq's main oilfields in the south, the current oil price stabilization is likely to be short lived and we could see a significant spike in oil prices."

1 Comment
June 19, 2014    mrrudy@
The wild card in the sectarian war that will soon engulf the entire Middle East, including Persian Gulf oil monarchies and their extreme brand of Sunni religion which treats their majority and badly abused temporarily laborers from around the rest of the Muslim world who, given a chance when the sectarian war reaches these oil-rich nations will revolt against the monarchs and their heavily American armed troops, is Israel -- read carefully: the real wild card is what Israel will do as borders (what side the Jewish state favors) are redrawn during the sectarian war which, incidentally, can spread to many Muslim majority nations outside the region -- there are 49 of them including Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Nigeria and other African and Asian nations. As well, once the Middle East and other oil supplies are halted due to conflict, China can be expected to become militarily involved in order to keep the fossil fuels flowing even if it means confronting Nato forces, including America.
By the time the Christian holiday of Christmas arrives, the sectarian war will be global, also involving millions upon millions of Muslims living in the United States and across Europe and Britain where the Christian majorities who generally speaking have been taught to loath Islam, will slaughter and/or throw them into concentration camps reminiscent of Nazi treatment of Jews.
FYI. There are an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, making Islam the world’s second-largest religious tradition after Christianity, according to the December 2012 Global Religious Landscape report from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.
Although many people, especially in the United States, may associate Islam with countries in the Middle East or North Africa, nearly two-thirds (62%) of Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the Pew Research analysis. In fact, more Muslims live in India and Pakistan (344 million combined) than in the entire Middle East-North Africa region (317 million).
However, the Middle East-North Africa region has the highest concentration Muslims of any region of the world: 93% of its approximately 341 million inhabitants are Muslim, compared with 30% in sub-Saharan Africa and 24% in the Asia-Pacific region.
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