Ten dead in militant attack in Iraq's Ramadi
"Ten people were killed when gunmen wearing explosive belts stormed a police building in the Iraqi city of Ramadi on Sunday, police and provincial officials said."
"The coordinated blasts and shootings come with the country mired in a festering political row, and deal a blow to US and Iraqi officials' assertion that local forces are able to maintain internal security."
The violence today in mostly Sunni Ramadi came a day after a suicide attacker targeting Shiites killed 53 people on the outskirts of the southern city of Basra, the latest in a series of attacks that have killed nearly 200 in less than a month."
"They said a total of 18 people, including the attackers, were killed in the standoff. It came one day after 53 Shiite pilgrims were killed and dozens wounded by a suicide bomber near the southern city of Basra. Almost 150 people have been killed in violence throughout the country since the start of the year."
Sunday's coordinated attack in Ramadi started late morning with several near-simultaneous bombs going off on the road leading to the government security complex housing police headquarters, a counterterrorism unit, an underground prison and other facilities in an attempt to draw guards out, Anbar Gov. Qassim al-Fahdawi said."
"Violence has surged since American troops left, and Iraq was plunged into a political crisis after Shiite-dominated government charged Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi with running death squads, issuing an arrest warrant against him just as the last U.S. soldiers crossed into neighboring Kuwait."
On Sunday, a court in Baghdad ruled that al-Hashemi must stand trial on terror charges in Baghdad, rejecting his request to be tried in the ethnically mixed city in Kirkuk. He has fled to the autonomous Kurdish region, out of reach of authorities in Baghdad. He believes he could get a fair trial in Kirkuk but would be in danger in Baghdad."
"Separately, a car bomb targeted a police station in Baiji, north of the capital Baghdad, killing at least one person and wounding 12 others, the ministry said."
The little horn continues to grow
Oil prices, Iran are increasingly sources of concern
"The price of crude oil and growing tensions with Iran are bubbling to the top of economists’ and policymakers’ worry lists for 2012, as U.S. and European Union sanctions threaten to reduce the sales of Iranian oil and put pressure on one of the world’s largest petroleum exporters.
“I’ve characterized it as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse for 2012. Now it’s come from behind to be at the head of the pack.”
“It’s been in the background for quite some time,” said Edward Yardeni, a leading investment strategist. "
'The push for tighter sanctions on Iranian oil exports comes at a time when oil prices are already high. Last year was a record-shattering year for oil prices, which averaged $107 a barrel, about 14 percent more than in the previous record year of 2008, according to figures from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries."
The U.S. oil import bill — for crude and refined products — jumped about $125 billion from 2010 to 2011."
"Few issues can be solved by sanctions," says Tao Wenzhao, a foreign-affairs analyst at the government-sponsored China Academy of Social Sciences. "We think that the correct way to resolve international issues is through negotiations."
The European Union has agreed in principle to an oil embargo, and US allies such as South Korea and Japan, two other major importers of Iranian oil, could also join America in pressuring Tehran."
"Here’s another way of looking at it: In 2011, the United States paid about $125 billion more for oil imports than it did in 2010 (thanks, in part, to the disruptions caused by civil war in Libya). That “oil tax” was essentially enough to wipe out the entire stimulative effects of Barack Obama’s middle-class tax cut. A similar oil spike this year would cancel out a hefty chunk of the benefits of extending the $200 billion payroll tax cut bill that Congress is fighting over."
As with everything, there are caveats and uncertainties. As Jared Bernstein observes, China’s frenetic growth seems to be slowing of late, which could ease some of the pressure on oil prices. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia claims that it has enough spare capacity to make up any shortages due to disruptions in Iran, but analysts tend to be skeptical of how much extra oil the Saudis can actually pump out."
"OPEC spare capacity is quite low, which leaves the market very vulnerable to further supply losses, with the potential for further losses particularly in Iran and Nigeria."
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