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

U.S. airstrikes level off in Iraq in recent days

Dion Nissenbaum and Julian E. Barnes write for the Wall Street Journal:

The American military campaign against Sunni extremists in Iraq has leveled off in recent days as the U.S. weighs plans for expanded airstrikes and humanitarian-aid drops, officials said. Preparations were being made for operations near Haditha Dam and to provide relief to an Iraqi ethnic-minority group surrounded by Islamic State fighters. But new strikes and aid drops didn't appear imminent Wednesday, a reflection of the success the American air campaign and Kurdish fighters have had in blunting the momentum of the Sunni insurgent group.

Expanded U.S. operations, both in Iraq and Syria, remain a possibility. Military officials also are developing plans for strikes against Islamic State forces in Syria as part of a broader battle against the militant group that posted a video last week that showed it killed an American journalist. But officials cautioned that the White House isn't yet near a decision.

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America is using cannons to kill mosquitoes in Iraq

Mark Thompson reports for Time:

The new war the U.S. is waging over Iraq is succeeding. With help on the ground from Kurdish and Iraqi troops, U.S. airstrikes have pushed fighters from the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) away from the Mosul Dam.

But the daily details of U.S. military airstrikes only serve to highlight how little American military might can do. “The strikes destroyed an [ISIS] Humvee,” U.S. Central Command said Wednesday. “One strike destroyed an [ISIS] Humvee near the Mosul Dam,” Sunday’s announcement said. “The strikes destroyed or damaged three [ISIS] Humvees,” Centcom said a week ago.

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Islamic State fills coffers from illicit economy in Syria, Iraq

Nour Malas and Maria Abi-Habib write for the Wall Street Journal:

The Islamic State runs a self-sustaining economy across territory it controls in Syria and Iraq, pirating oil while exacting tribute from a population of at least eight million, Arab and Western officials said, making it one of the world's richest terror groups and an unprecedented threat.

That illicit economy presents a new picture of Islamic State's financial underpinnings. The group was once thought to depend on funding from Arab Gulf donors and donations from the broader Muslim world. Now, Islamic State—the former branch of al Qaeda that has swallowed parts of Iraq and Syria—is a largely self-financed organization.

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What’s next in Iraq and Syria?

John Cassidy writes for the New Yorker:

On his first full day back from vacation, President Barack Obama could be forgiven for wishing he were still on Martha’s Vineyard. With confirmation that ISIS fighters have just captured another military base from the government forces of President Assad, and that Qatar has engineered the release of an American freelance journalist who was being held by a non-ISIS jihadist group, Obama has two formidable challenges to deal with.

The immediate task for Obama is deciding whether to launch American bombing raids on ISIS positions inside Syria, while simultaneously preparing his Administration, and the country at large, for the possibility of another video showing an American hostage being butchered. The ISIS militants, having carefully orchestrated the beheading of James Foley following the launch of U.S. strikes inside Iraq, will surely seek to exploit the fate of its remaining American hostages for maximum effect. Any U.S. decision to expand its air campaign is almost certain to be met with the release of more snuff films.

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Military skill and terrorist technique fuel sucess of ISIS

Ben Hubbard and Eric Schmitt write for the New York Times:

As fighters for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria continue to seize territory, the group has quietly built an effective management structure of mostly middle-aged Iraqis overseeing departments of finance, arms, local governance, military operations and recruitment. At the top the organization is the self-declared leader of all Muslims, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a radical chief executive officer of sorts, who handpicked many of his deputies from among the men he met while a prisoner in American custody at the Camp Bucca detention center a decade ago.

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Backing the Kurds will stabilse Iraq

Ranj Alaadin writes for Al Jazeera:

Since US airstrikes began on Islamic State targets in Iraq's Kurdistan region, a number of Western countries have finally decided to empower and arm Iraq's Kurds in the ever-expanding battle against the radical group. The West has finally made the right decision, as the Islamic State group can only be confronted and defeated with the help of a reliable regional ally such as the Kurds.

Western support for the Kurds should be part of a long-term strategy aimed at stabilising Iraq as a whole. In other words, help the Kurds help Iraq. Iraq's problems are the Kurds' problems. Iraq's Kurds and Arabs can work together. The retaking of the Mosul dam through a joint Kurdish-Arab force - a dam that the Islamic State could have used to flood cities like Baghdad - proves that not only is intervention in Iraq working but also that these are reliable and organised forces that can fight the Islamic State and do the job effectively.

 

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U.S. mobilizes allies to widen assault on ISIS

Helene Cooper and Mark Landler write for the New York Times:

The United States has begun to mobilize a broad coalition of allies behind potential American military action in Syria and is moving toward expanded airstrikes in northern Iraq, administration officials said on Tuesday.

President Obama, the officials said, was broadening his campaign against the Sunni militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and nearing a decision to authorize airstrikes and airdrops of food and water around the northern Iraqi town of Amerli, home to members of Iraq’s Turkmen minority. The town of 12,000 has been under siege for more than two months by the militants.

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Iraq crisis worsens Jordan’s economic woes

Areej Abuqudairi writes for Al Jazeera:

As violence escalates in Iraq, neighbouring Jordan is facing a dire economic situation. Trade between the two countries, once a pillar of the Jordanian economy, has dropped dramatically. "The situation is disastrous, as our exports have almost stopped," said Nabeel Rumman, president of the Association of Investors in the Free Zone. Jordanian and foreign investors are not taxed in Jordan's free zones to encourage trade. Through the free zones, companies were exporting $120m worth of cars and other goods each month to Iraq, according to Rumman, who estimated that the group's monthly losses total approximately $78m. "Only a few investors have shipped basic things like food and medicine [to Iraq] during the past couple of months," Rumman told Al Jazeera.

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Kuwait Energy open to more Iraq investment

Reuters reports:

The head of Kuwait Energy says she’s encouraged by recent gains in Iraq against the militant Islamic State group and would welcome more investment there. Sara Akbar, Kuwait Energy’s CEO, told Reuters during an oil conference in Norway that “I think we've been through the worst and things will stabilize.”

Several oil companies in Iraq's Kurdistan region withdrew staff earlier this month after Islamic State fighters approached Irbil, the region's capital, threatening its vast oil infrastructure. Kurdish forces, assisted by U.S. airstrikes, have pushed back Islamic State fighters in recent weeks – but some firms have not returned to the country.

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The meaning of ‘win’ this time in Iraq

Robin Wright reports for Gulf News:

Let’s be honest. The United States has crossed the threshold on Iraq. Americans are in it to salvage the country — again — using their military might.
But the mission has also, very quickly, grown much bigger in less than two weeks. US warplanes are no longer simply helping create escape routes for the Yazidis or protecting American personnel in Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. The US is now directly taking on the world’s most militant extremist group, bombing its positions at the Mosul dam and beyond. And it’s probably only the beginning.

President Barack Obama implied as much last week. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), is “a savage group that seems willing to slaughter people for no rhyme or reason other than they have not kowtowed,” he told reporters. The United States has a national security interest in making sure “that a group like that is contained, because ultimately they can pose a threat to us.”

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