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

U.S. invokes Iraq’s defense in legal justification for Syria strikes

Somini Sengupta and Charlie Savage write for the New York Times:

The United States said on Tuesday that the American-led airstrikes against the Islamic State — carried out in Syria without seeking the permission of the Syrian government or the United Nations Security Council — were legal because they were done in defense of Iraq. The American ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, officially informed the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, of the legal justification in a letter, asserting that the airstrikes had been carried out under a fundamental principle in the United Nations Charter. That principle gives countries the right to defend themselves, including using force on another country’s territory when that country is unwilling or unable to address it.

International law generally prohibits using force on the sovereign territory of another country without its permission or authorization from the United Nations, except as a matter of self-defense. American intelligence agencies have concluded that the Islamic State poses no immediate threat to the United States, though they say that another militant group targeted in the strikes, Khorasan, does pose a threat.

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Fragile consensus for Obama’s ISIL military campaign

Naureen Khan writes for Al Jazeera:

As President Obama on Tuesday announced the first airstrikes against Islamic State of Syria and Levant (ISIL) targets in Syria — an opening salvo in what promises to be a lengthy intervention — there seemed to be a near-miracle afoot at home: some measure of consensus. The latest public opinion polls shows broad support for the president’s military campaign — 71 percent of respondents in a September ABC News/Washington Post survey said they support strikes against the Sunni insurgency in Iraq while 65 percent said they supported expanding the strikes into Syria. A whopping 91 percent of those polled said they viewed ISIL as a threat to the “vital interests of the United States.”

In Congress, too, there has been relatively little rancor. Although some Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans have expressed reservations about wandering into another open-ended conflict in the Middle East, while other members of the GOP have grumbled that the president should have stepped into the fray months, if not years, ago, the majority of lawmakers have given the president leeway on his strategy.

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U.S., allies training Kurds on using sophisticated weaponry

Joe Parkinson and Dion Nissenbaum write for the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. military and its allies have launched an urgent effort to train Kurdish forces to use sophisticated weapons that the West is expected to supply in the coming months for a stepped up counteroffensive against the extremist group Islamic State. For the past month, American, British and French advisers have been training fighters from the semiautonomous Kurdistan region in battlefield techniques at military bases across northern Iraq. The conflict with Islamic State insurgents has laid bare the weaknesses of the forces known as Peshmerga, who not only lack military hardware but also have a strategic deficiency. Steeped in guerrilla warfare, the forces have little experience defending long front lines or fighting in urban environments, Kurdish officials said.

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How ISIS works

THe New York Times reports :

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has a detailed structure that encompasses many functions and jurisdictions, according to ISIS documents seized by Iraqi forces and seen by American officials and Hashim Alhashimi, an Iraqi researcher. Many of its leaders are former officers from Saddam Hussein’s long-disbanded army who augmented their military training with terrorist techniques during years of fighting American troops.

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Iraq’s artists defy extremists with bows, brushes and a low profile

Alice Fordham reports for NPR:

It's a hot night in Baghdad, and the national theater is packed with people who are here to see the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra. They're fanning themselves with programs that show conductor Karim Wasfi, a striking man with thick eyebrows and a pointed beard, playing the cello. Tonight, he'll be conducting for the first time in more than a year. Iraq has been in the headlines lately, with extremists taking over parts of the country, American airstrikes, the militias and the politics. But the country was once a sophisticated center for learning and the arts. Backstage at the national theater, Wasfi reflects on the musicians and artists trying to keep that tradition alive.

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Iraqi neighbourhood holds out against jihadists

W.G. Dunlop reports for AFP:

Caught between jihadists and the Tigris River, residents of one neighbourhood in a Sunni town in Iraq have taken up arms alongside security forces and held out for months. If the fighters, police and soldiers defending the Jubur area in Dhuluiyah north of Baghdad repel the Islamic State (IS) -- a Sunni jihadist group -- it would be a powerful symbol of resistance for the forces battling against it. And it could help gain support for the anti-jihadist fight among Iraqi Sunni Arabs who feel they have been marginalised by the Shiite-led government and targeted by its security forces. Their backing is key to regaining ground from IS and allied groups that overran much of the Sunni Arab heartland in June. Jubur, named for the tribe that resides there, is an idyllic area of colourful houses, soaring palm trees and the reed-lined Tigris, but the peace is broken by periodic bursts of machinegun and rifle fire and explosions.

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High hopes, few good options for Iraq’s new leader

Jamie Tarabay reports for Al Jazeera:

Haider al-Abadi is not the first Iraqi prime minister on whom Washington has pinned its hopes for a new era of reconciliation among Sunnis and Shias to stem rising violence and turmoil. A similar wave of U.S. optimism followed the election of Nouri al-Maliki to the job in 2006, as Iraq careened towards all-out civil war. The outgoing prime minister at the time, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, was accused of either aiding or failing to restrain Shia militia engaged in ethnic cleansing of Sunni neighborhoods after the bombing of a critical Shia religious shrine. Maliki was hailed as the no-nonsense pragmatist who would stop the carnage.

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Turkey welcomes the return of diplomats and families held hostage in Iraq

Sebnem Arsu and Ceylan Yeginsu write for the New York Times:

Forty-nine Turkish hostages who had been held for months in Iraq by Islamic State militants were returned to Turkey on Saturday after what Turkey said was a covert operation led by its intelligence agency. The hostages, including diplomats and their families, had been seized in June from the Turkish consulate in the Iraqi city of Mosul. “The Turkish intelligence agency has followed the situation very sensitively and patiently since the beginning and, as a result, conducted a successful rescue operation,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement Saturday.

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Iraq conference opens in Paris as France urges ‘global’ fight oh jihadists

Reuters reports:

French President Francois Hollande called on Monday for united international action to tackle the threat from Islamic State militants as he opened a conference on Iraq bringing together members of a U.S.-led coalition. The United States this week unveiled an outline plan to fight the Islamist militants simultaneously in Iraq and Syria. It believes it can forge a solid alliance despite hesitancy among some partners and questions over the legality of action, notably in Syria where the militant group has a power base. "What is the threat?" the French leader said as he opened the one-day meeting of officials from some 30 states in Paris.

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Iraq parliament rejects interior, defense nominees

AP reports:

Iraqi lawmakers rejected Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's nominees Tuesday to lead the defense and interior ministries, leaving the crucial Cabinet posts unfilled as an emerging U.S.-led coalition intensifies its air campaign against Islamic State extremists who have seized a third of the country.

Control over the two powerful security portfolios has long been a source of tension among Iraq's feuding political factions, and the failure to agree on the candidates marked the latest in a series of delays in forming a unified government that can confront the Islamic State extremist group. The parliament session was held as the U.S. carried out an airstrike near Baghdad for the first time since launching an aerial campaign in early August, and French warplanes flying from the United Arab Emirates began reconnaissance missions over Iraq.

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