Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

Fate of Kurdish presidency divides Iraqi Kurds

Mohammed A. Salih writes for Al Monitor:

As the tenure of Iraqi Kurdistan's President Massoud Barzani is coming to an end soon, the question of transfer of power has divided Kurdish political factions and threatens to destabilize the Kurdistan Region of Iraq amid an ongoing war against the Islamic State (IS).

Barzani has been president for 10 years. When his term was about to end in June 2013, his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and then-ally Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) — led by former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani — agreed to extend his term via a parliamentary motion for two years.


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Gates: Obama should step up military assistance to Iraq

NPR reports:

The self-declared Islamic State gained a real grip on Iraq and Syria this week, capturing the cities of Ramadi and parts of Mosul in Iraq, and the ancient town Palmyra, Syria.

Most recently, ISIS has claimed credit for a suicide bomb attack inside Saudi Arabia on a Shiite mosque during Friday prayers. That attack killed at least 19 and could represent a significant escalation of the extremist group's operations in the kingdom. NPR's Leila Fadel reported that it was the first time a Saudi branch of ISIS known as Najd Province has claimed responsibility for an attack inside the kingdom.

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Shi’ite militias advance on Islamic State insurgents near Iraq’s Ramadi

Reuters reports:

Shi'ite Muslim militiamen and Iraqi army forces launched a counter-offensive against Islamic State insurgents near Ramadi on Saturday, a militia spokesman said, aiming to reverse potentially devastating gains by the jihadi militants.

The fall of Ramadi, the Anbar provincial capital, to Islamic State on May 17 could be a shattering blow to Baghdad's weak central government. The Sunni Muslim jihadis now control most of Anbar and could threaten the western approaches to Baghdad, or even surge south into Iraq's Shi’ite heartland.

Anbar provincial council member Azzal Obaid said hundreds of Shi'ite fighters, who had assembled last week at the Habbaniya air base, moved into Khalidiya on Saturday and were nearing Siddiqiya and Madiq, towns in contested territory near Ramadi.

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Iran sends troops to help retake key Iraqi oil refinery from Isis

AP reports:

Iran has entered the fight to retake a major Iraqi oil refinery from Islamic State militants, contributing small numbers of troops – some operating artillery and other heavy weapons – in support of advancing Iraqi ground forces, US defence officials said.

The US and its allies, meanwhile, have staged 22 air strikes on Isis targets since Friday, including four near Ramadi, the city taken by the militants this week, the US military said on Saturday. Coalition forces also attacked five Isis sites in Syria between Friday and Saturday.

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Iraqis launch counter-attack against ISIS near Ramadi

Arwa Damon, Jason Hanna, and Hamdi Alkhshali report for CNN:

After days of ISIS fighters advancing east out of Ramadi, an alliance of Iraqi forces opposed to the terror group say they've launched a counterattack -- hoping to push them away from a key Iraqi military base and the country's capital. The Iraqis repelled an ISIS attack on the town of Khalidiya and then launched their own offensive to the west Saturday, toward the town of Husayba, which ISIS captured just a day earlier, said Faleh al-Eissawi, deputy governor of Anbar province.

The pushback by Sunni tribal fighters, Iraqi security forces and a Shiite militia could comprise the first significant counterattack in the area since ISIS took control of Ramadi, capital of the predominantly Sunni Anbar province, earlier this month. The fighting in the Ramadi area has prompted thousands of civilians to flee in recent weeks, many of them to Baghdad, 65 miles (105 kilometers) to the east.

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The people of Iraq cannot be left to suffer alone

Dominik Stillhart writes in the Independent :

In a busy, complex world, we inevitably try to simplify things. We just do not have the time to do otherwise. So, we watch, we listen, we condense and then we consume. Nuances are binned, details left on the chopping board. We are left with a boiled down version of the truth. Unsatisfactory, but at least digestible.
Take the case of Iraq. I have just returned from a five-day visit. To many, the conflict is quite simple: a one-dimensional struggle between Islamic State group and a coalition of forces opposing them. But delve beneath the surface, and there is a plethora of issues and suffering, at stake.

I visited a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) on the border between Baghdad and Anbar province. The people have nothing but the clothes they stand in. They live in tents. There are no toilets, no health facilities and virtually no water. There is certainly no education for the children. And they are living under a baking hot sun.

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Russia offers military aid to Iraq during PM visit

Denis Dyomkin reports for Reuters:

Russia offered visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi military and other aid on Thursday to help push back Islamic State militants who have made further sweeping gains in both Iraq and Syria this week.

The advances by IS, which captured the Iraqi city of Ramadi last weekend and on Thursday was tightening its grip on the historic city of Palmyra in neighboring Syria, have exposed the shortcomings of Iraq's army and the limitations of U.S. air strikes.

In going ahead with his visit to Moscow despite the worsening security crisis, Abadi said he had wanted to underline the importance of his country's ties with Russia, adding that he had disregarded "certain forces" advising him to cancel the trip.

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Key Syria-Iraq border crossing falls to ISIL

Al Jazeera reports:

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group have reinforced their self-declared "caliphate" with the capture of the Al-Tanaf to Al-Walid crossing on the Damascus-Baghdad highway. Al-Walid crossing is the last border crossing with Iraq that was held by the Damascus government. Except for a short section of frontier in the north under Kurdish control, all the rest are now held by ISIL.

ISIL's advance, which was preceeded by the capture of Anbar capital Ramadi and the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra in the past week, comes despite eight months of US-led air strikes aimed at pushing them back.

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Why Obama deserves the bulk of the blame for Iraq

Charles Krauthammer writes in the Chicago Tribune:

Ramadi falls. The Iraqi army flees. The great 60-nation anti-Islamic State group coalition so grandly proclaimed by the Obama administration is nowhere to be seen. Instead, it's the defense minister of Iran who flies into Baghdad, an unsubtle demonstration of who's in charge — while the U.S. air campaign proves futile and America's alleged strategy for combating the Islamic State is in free fall.

It gets worse. The Gulf states' top leaders, betrayed and bitter, ostentatiously boycott President Barack Obama's failed Camp David summit. "We were America's best friend in the Arab world for 50 years," laments Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief.

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Sunni tribes in Iraq divided over battle against Islamic State

Nour Malas and Ghassan Adnan write for the Wall Street Journal:

While some of his Sunni kinsmen in Anbar province set about working with Shiite militias on a strategy to oust Islamic State, Emad al-Jumaili was making a very different kind of plan. The tribal elder was busy preparing to guard his home and family from those same militias. “I have always said I would much prefer to be killed by a Sunni terrorist organization than a Shiite terrorist organization,” said Mr. Jumaili.

That’s a big problem for the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government and its U.S. allies. They are counting on influential Sunnis like Sheik Jumaili to help the Shiite militias beat back the recent gains of the voracious militants of Islamic State, who are also Sunnis.


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