Iraqi Refinery May be Destroyed in Battle to Save it


BAGHDAD, May 13 (Reuters) – Islamic State militants have dug trenches around natural gas and hydrogen tanks at Iraq's largest refinery, raising the stakes in a battle where the price of victory may be the refinery itself.

The Baiji refinery remains contested despite more than 300 coalition air strikes in the vicinity since the Islamist insurgents overran the area last June.

The militants launched their fiercest attack on the installation last month and now control large parts of the complex in which 200 Iraqi security forces are trapped.

The Pentagon last week said the outcome of the battle – in which Iraqi security forces backed by coalition warplanes are fighting to retake the refinery from Islamic State militants – could not be predicted but warned it was going in "the wrong direction".

Islamic State appears to have committed itself to an all-out fight there, proving it can still seize the initiative after being ejected from the city of Tikrit further south in early April, military officials and experts say.

The battle highlights the disordered state of the security forces, which partly disintegrated last summer and must now fight on several fronts whilst holding ground they have retaken.

"We don't sleep that much," said Mohanad, one of the policemen trapped inside the refinery. They are fending off two or three attacks a day from the militants, who are using snipers, mortars and heat-seeking missiles.


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Keith Patton  |  May 13, 2015
I find it hard to believe that the refinery would be out of production for years when the refinery at Ploiesti Rumania was the target of multiple Allied bomb raids with the expressed objective of destroying the refinery and it was back in operation in a matter of months. The last raid, Operation Tidal Wave involved 177 heavy bombers and dropped hundreds of tons of bombs on the refinery. Fifty-three heavy bombers were lost in the effort along with some 310 crewmen. Some bombers crashed into the refinery itself since is was a low level mission, bombers dropping their bomb loads from only several hundred feet above the ground to avoid radar. Even with this effort the refinery complex saw some refineries untouched and all were back into full production within weeks with a higher capacity than before. US Strategic estimates were that capacity never dropped below 40% So how can these so called experts say it will take years to repair this refinery when efforts have been made apparently to spare it major damage? Do I smell an effort to impact commodity futures perhaps?