As Islamic State (ISIS) retreats from its Iraq stronghold and the U.S. winds down its wars in Afghanistan and Syria, oil prices have plunged to more than a four-year low, setting off a global panic in key markets. A sharp sell-off late in the day sent the Nasdaq spiraling nearly 9 percent below the 5,000 mark, while global markets tumbled deep into correction territory. However, amid the chaos, the shooting and stabbing attacks and the smoldering bombs, some of the most portentous events were happening on the ground in Iraq.
Iraq was briefly in a state of absolute chaos today as the Iraqi army and allied forces began pounding the last ISIS holdouts in Hawija, where the country’s parliament was in session.
Back at its own parliament, lawmakers debated a plan to draft Kurdish lawmakers out of the country — a plot the Kurds said was masterminded by Turkey. They also held anti-Shiite protests and demanded greater Iranian-made weapons to be used in the fight against ISIS.
Violence-stricken Iraqis celebrate and wave their national flags as troops patrol the streets of Hawija, Iraq, Friday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
But perhaps the most harrowing sight of the day was a surge in the spread of a virulent strain of Middle Eastern respiratory infection, a kind of pneumonia caused by E. coli bacteria. The spread of the bug comes less than a month after a plunge in world oil prices triggered a price crash. The virus, according to public health officials, is spread by direct contact with contaminated food and then air contamination, and may have something to do with the widespread destruction the conflict has wrought on Iraq’s water supply.
During a meeting in Strasbourg to discuss the Iran nuclear deal, President Donald Trump announced he is withholding from providing security guarantees to Iraq as long as the Kurds remain a party to the current trade pact with the United States. That raises the prospect of a spike in oil prices in the wake of plunging costs.
Marawi, one of the cities hardest hit by the destruction, is again in the throes of devastation from a reported 500-foot-tall banner-carrying extremist ISIS suicide bomber.
And on the border between Iraq and Syria, the Kurdish autonomous region again tore itself apart over the division of oil revenue from the region. Relations between Kurds and Baghdad exploded after a visit to the region by central government officials this week.