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

Paranoid Iraq seized Canadian military plane hauling weapons for special forces in Kurdistan

David Pugliese reports for the National Post:

Iraqi officials temporarily seized a military aircraft carrying weapons for Canadian special forces in Kurdistan, amid a wave of anti-western conspiracy theories rife in Iraqi politics. The seizure and the reasons for it raise questions for Canada’s new Liberal government, which has vowed to do more military training in the country.

The Iraqis said they held the Canadian Forces Hercules transport aircraft, carrying supplies into Kurdistan without authorization, for four days. Some Iraqis are concerned that the Kurds, who ultimately want independence for their territory, will use the support and weapons they receive from the U.S.-led coalition to eventually break away.

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Offensive against Islamic State in Ramadi looms as dozens are killed across Iraq

Fred Lambert reports for UPI:

Iraqi military reinforcements gathered Tuesday for an anticipated assault against Ramadi, the capital of western Iraq's Anbar province, as continued clashes with the Islamic State killed dozens across the country.

Maj. Gen. Ismail Mahlawi, commander of operations in Anbar, told IraqiNews.comreinforcement units, including "artillery batteries and tanks," arrived at his command Tuesday, adding "our last battle is storming the city of Ramadi, which will be launched in the next few days after the completion of all preparations."

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Sweden extends training program for Kurdish troops In Iraq

Gerard O'Dwyer writes for Defense News:

Sweden formally extended its commitment to training Kurdish peshmerga forces in Iraq to fight the Islamic State until the end of 2016. Funding is in place to continue training programs for Kurdish troops in Iraq over the next 14 months. The training program is being run by a team of 35 specialists drawn from elite combat units within the Swedish Army. "We are committed to this work. The unit’s number may be small, but the focus should not be on numbers. This is a very capable, competent and highly qualified unit," said Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist.

The unit, which comprises operational mentoring and liaison teams, became operational in Iraq in August. The training is reported to be concentrated on operations and combat discipline, coordinated actions, weapons training and stealth reconnaissance skills.

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The child soldiers fighting to stop the Islamic State

Adnan Abu Zeed reports for Al Monitor:

Iraqi boys under 15 years old are joining, and dying, in the fight against the Islamic State (IS), despite a UN protocol forbidding their recruitment. The UN Commission on Human Rights protocol stipulates recruits must be at least 15 years old to join any armed forces, but this protocol clearly has been violated for years. In the city of Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, 13-year-old Saad al-Husseini joined the government's Popular Mobilization Units in December 2013 and volunteered to fight alongside his father in the nearby Jurf al-Sakhar area, where fierce battles liberated the area from IS on Oct. 25, 2014.

“I participated in the battles against [IS] members, and I fired on them. I participated in the withdrawal of the bodies of those killed in the fighting, and I dug trenches with fighters," Husseini told Al-Monitor.

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Is Congress paving the way for a Christian safe zone in Iraq?

Julian Pecquet writes for Al Monitor:

Can the US Congress help save Middle East Christians from extinction? Christian activists are making the unlikely gamble as their yearslong exodus from Syria and Iraq has turned into an outright stampede under the Islamic State (IS). They’re launching a lobbying blitz to get the United States to label their plight a genocide — and create pressure for the subsequent creation of a Christian safe haven in Iraq.

“We are forming a lobby team and trying to raise some money to hire [a] very respected diplomat so we can get more countries involved in this issue,” said Loay Mikhael, head of the Foreign Relations Committee at the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council.

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‘Billions of dollars’ smuggled out of Iraq during Maliki’s rule

Al Arabiya reports :

The Iraqi central bank has taken legal action against several banks and customers who went against official instructions regarding the sale of hard currency between from 2012 to 2014, during former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s rule, the Anadolu news agency reported on Sunday. The Central Bank said in a statement to Anadolu that along with the  legal proceedings taking place, “heavy fines are being collected,” noting that “the bank’s audit teams are currently working on such actions in coordination with judicial authorities on financial irregularities.”

The statement comes only two days after the release of official documents from the Finance Committee in the Iraqi parliament which exposed the smuggling of billions of dollars out of Iraq through a number of banks and financial companies between 2006 and 2014 when Maliki was in power.

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Kurdish anti-ISIS stronghold in Iraq under threat

Zvi Bar'el writes for Haaretz:

The autonomous enclave that the Kurds have created in northern Iraq, which had been a model of economic and political success, is facing a deep crisis that threatens its ability to stand up to the Islamic State.

Iraq’s Kurdish region, which is almost totally separate from the rest of the country, and until recently has been considered the safest place in Iraq, began last month to enter a state of unrest. There have been stormy demonstrations, in which five civilians have been killed and more than 200 injured. That, along with the dismissal of cabinet ministers, the battle over the presidency and the economic crisis, are threatening the enclave’s unity and its capacity to function, including its ability to stand up to the Islamic State.

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Over 230,000 vaccinated in Iraq anti-cholera campaign

AFP reports :

More than 230,000 people received a first dose of cholera vaccine in a massive campaign to combat an outbreak of the disease in Iraq, the World Health Organisation said Monday. Over 2,500 cases of cholera have been confirmed in Iraq since the outbreak began, causing two confirmed deaths, according to the WHO.

The first dose of the vaccine was administered to "91 percent of the targeted 255,000 Syrian refugees and internally displaced Iraqis across 62 refugee and IDP (displaced) camps in 13 governorates," WHO said in a statement.

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Why some Christians in northern Iraq are choosing to stand and fight

Christen Chick reports for the Christian Science Monitor:

On the outside, the house is fortified with sandbags and machine guns. On the inside hang pictures of Jesus and Mary. The house, in the last village before the territory of the Islamic State (IS) begins here in northern Iraq, is a base for Dwekh Nawsha, one of the Assyrian Christian militias participating in the battle against IS.

Last year, the jihadists’ lightning advance across northern Iraq captured part of the Nineveh Plain, historic homeland of Iraq’s Assyrian minority, forcing thousands of Christians to flee. Now some of them are on the front lines, fighting for their homeland.

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In Iraq, 3 moves against Islamic State foundering

Mitchell Prothero reports for Mcclatchy:

Iraqi forces’ hopes of recapturing the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State have stalled, largely because their efforts to cut resupply routes into the city of nearly 1 million have failed. Iraqi planners had hoped a cordon around the city, the capital of Anbar province, Iraq’s largest, would prevent the Islamic State from being able to prepare for a long siege. But local military commanders, residents and analysts say the Iraqi forces were unable to maintain the cordon and that the Islamic State has been able to resupply.

Iraqi officials have announced a new operation to retake the city nearly every week since  the Islamic State routed its defenders last spring. But despite the vows, it’s become clear that the government has neither the manpower nor the training to conduct an offensive in a huge city that remains packed with civilians. The Islamic State apparently has succeeded in keeping civilians from fleeing.

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