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

Hungary mulls sending troops to Iraq

Radio Free Europe reports:

EU and NATO member Hungary says it is considering sending 100 troops to join the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq following an American request. Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told journalists on March 10 that a parliament decision could come in mid-April "and Hungarian troops could arrive in Iraq during the second half of May."

Szijjarto said, "Hungary is already a part of the conflict with the Islamic State, because it belongs to the Western community of values, which was attacked by the terrorist organization." He said the soldiers' role would be to protect a training centre in Iraqi Kurdistan's capital Erbil, in the north, where coalition troops are training local forces. The mission needs approval by a two-thirds majority in parliament, meaning that Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party needs one opposition vote.

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U.S. sees bigger test for Iraq after Tikrit battle

Missy Ryan reports for the Washington Post:

The top U.S. military officer will press the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during a visit to Iraq this week about its plans for avoiding sectarian fallout once the Iranian-backed operation to dislodge the Islamic State from the city of Tikrit concludes.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he was confident that Iraq would ultimately defeat the Sunni militants in Tikrit, a largely Sunni city northwest of Baghdad. He said the group’s fighters number only in the hundreds there, while the force of Iraqi troops and Iranian-backed militia fighters advancing on the city stands around 23,000.

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Iraq asks U.S.-led coalition to help prevent Islamic State destruction of antiquities

Tamer El-Ghobashy writes for the Wall Street Journal:

Iraqi cultural officials called for more military help from the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State to halt the group’s destruction of ancient monuments—a new source of anger, shock and shame for a nation reeling from the loss of life and land. Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Adel al-Shershab on Sunday said the government was investigating reports that the militants had begun bulldozing 2,000-year-old ruins in the city of Hatra. If confirmed, it would be the third attack in 10 days on heritage sites in artifact-rich Nineveh province, which has been occupied by Islamic State militants since June. “The international coalition, which pledged to protect Iraq, has to play a bigger role,” Mr. Shershab urged at a news conference.

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What’s behind the growing rift between Iraq and U.S. forces in the fight against Islamic State?

PBS News Hour reports:

Iraqi forces have been making significant headway against ISIS in the last few days, pushing extremist fighters back out of some of the territory they seized last year. Anne Barnard has been reporting for The New York Times on the fighting and the rising political tension. She joins me via Skype from Baghdad. So, what is the latest on the Iraqi forces’ efforts to take back some of the ground that ISIS gained last summer?

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2 key battles against ISIS, 1 major difference

CBS news reports:

Two key battles against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) raged Tuesday morning in Iraq: one for the city of Tikrit and the other in nearby Kirkuk Province. As CBS News correspondent Holly Williams reports, U.S.-led airstrikes are only being used in one of those fights, and that could end up being decisive.

With Iraq's military in disarray, the best fighting force the country's leaders could muster for the battle is a patched-together, rag-tag army of Iraqi government soldiers, local Sunni tribesmen and Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militias. American-led airstrikes have been critically important in other battles against ISIS -- but there's no U.S. involvement in Tikrit.

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Race in Iraq and Syria to record and shield art falling to ISIS

Anne Barnard writes for the New York Times:

In those areas of Iraq and Syria controlled by the Islamic State, residents are furtively recording on their cellphones damage done to antiquities by the extremist group. In northern Syria, museum curators have covered precious mosaics with sealant and sandbags. And at Baghdad’s recently reopened National Museum of Iraq, new iron bars protect galleries of ancient artifacts from the worst-case scenario.

These are just a few of the continuing efforts to guard the treasures of Iraq and Syria, two countries rich with traces of the world’s earliest civilizations. Yet only so much can be done under fire, and time is running out as Islamic State militants speed ahead with the systematic looting and destruction of antiquities.

 

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U.S. looking for contractors to help in Iraq

Paul McLeary reports for Defense News:

The Department of Defense only has about 250 civilian contractors in Iraq supporting the 2,700 US troops deployed there; but a handful of new solicitations and potential contracts may soon add to that number, according to items posted to a federal contracting Web site. For the past two decades, the resource-heavy American way of war has dictated that where US troops go, civilian contractors follow. It's a way of doing business that has become ingrained in the Pentagon's culture as end strength has slowly been whittled away while global commitments show no sign of slackening.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have doubled down on the practice, with the number of contractors more than doubling the number of uniformed personnel on the ground at various points over the past decade.

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Iraq says discussing $6 billion bond issue with banks

Dominic Evans writes for Reuters :

Iraq is discussing a possible bond issue worth nearly $6 billion with Deutsche Bank and Citibank as part of its efforts to cover a huge projected budget deficit this year, Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said. State revenues have tumbled along with falling oil prices just as Iraq faces a costly military campaign against Islamic State militants in its northern and western provinces, leaving a likely 25 trillion Iraqi dinar ($21.4 billion) shortfall.

To fund the deficit, Zebari said the finance ministry was looking at measures including the bond issue, borrowing from state banks, and converting some Iraqi bank assets held with the central bank into bonds. It might also consider raising money through forward sales of oil if the cabinet rejects plans for the 10-year bond issue. Officials say Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's cabinet sees the proposed 9 percent interest rate as prohibitively high.

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Former Ole Miss star Marshall Henderson playing in Iraq

Sports Illustrated reports:

Former Ole Miss star Marshall Henderson has continued his career in Iraq after failing to generate interest from NBA teams, reports Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports.

Henderson, who signed last month with Nift Al-Janoub in Baghdad, Iraq, gained national attention for his play with Ole Miss during the 2012-13 season. A brash, polarizing personality, Henderson gained infamy for his trigger-happy style of play and ability to score points in a hurry. During that season, he averaged 20.1 points per game while shooting 38 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range. The Rebels made a run to the third round of the NCAA tournament that year, upsetting Wisconsin in the first round behind 19 points from Henderson.

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Debate grinds on over force authorization in Iraq

Leo Shane III reports for the Military Times :

Congressional work on a new authorization of U.S. military forces in Iraq is finally underway, and supporters are still confident that the debate has critical significance even as fighting in the Middle East carries on without them. But that relevance assumes lawmakers eventually will pass something related to President Obama's authorization request, even though no clear timeline or blueprint for a plan has emerged.

Already, about 2,600 U.S. troops have deployed to Iraq in the fight against the Islamic State group, part of a coalition of 60 countries providing logistics and air support to that country's armed forces. That work has been building for more than six months, even without any explicit congressional authorization for those troops to be there. White House officials have maintained they don't need new legal authorization for the military intervention, but would benefit from the unified front that congressional authorization would provide.

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