Night Watch

Iraq: Situation update. News sources indicate that some Iraqi government forces remain in the Baiji refinery complex, but are surrounded. Fighting also continues at Tal Afar in the northwest, where another Iraqi army unit remains.

Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) also are engaged with Kurdish militiamen south of Kirkuk.

Comment: Ultra-extreme Islamist propaganda still warns that the terrorists intend to attack Baghdad, but thus far they continue to work on consolidating the territory they claim to control. Multiple news services reported that Iraq is assembling forces and making preparations for a large counter-offensive to take back the north.

Russia: Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki over the phone and expressed his support for Iraq.

"Putin confirmed Russia's complete support for the efforts of the Iraqi government to speedily liberate the territory of the republic from terrorists," according to a Russian statement released after the phone call.

Comment: Longstanding Russian interests were disrupted by the US intervention. In the last three years, Putin has been rebuilding Russian ties with Iraq through arms assistance. The Iraqi helicopter gunships that are mentioned occasionally by the news media were bought from Russia last year in an arms contract worth more $4.3 billion. Iraq purchased at least 40 Russian helicopters, including Mi-28 NE Night Hunters.

The first Russian-trained Iraqi pilots, crews and technicians completed training last autumn. Without those gunships, Iraq would have little to no air power to bring against ISIL and its supporters.

Turkey: Thinking about a Kurdish state. Turkish political analysts and politicians are rethinking their longstanding hostility to the formation of an independent Kurdish state. This is a reaction to the ISIL incursion and the partial Sunni rebellion in northern Iraq.

One official said, "It has become clear for us that Iraq has practically become divided into three parts."

Comment: Kurdestan's stability has proven beneficial and profitable for Turkey. The Kurds made their second major sale of oil today. Kurdish oil is exported through Turkey. The ISIL incursion reportedly has prompted Kurdish insurgents in Turkey to return to Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region to help defend it. Iran and the Kurdish region are the only stable geo-political entities on Turkey's southern and southeastern borders.

Night Watch

NightWatch is an internationally acclaimed nightly newsletter that tracks and assesses threats to US national security. It has an edgy, executive style unlike any other summary of its kind.

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