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

French aircraft carrier begins Iraq operations: French sources

Reuters reports:

France's Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier has started military operations against Islamic State in Iraq, a French army source said on Monday. "The carrier and its naval group has officially started missions as part of its Chammal operation in Iraq," the source told Reuters in a reference to the name of the mission. A second source said the carrier would be engaged for several weeks.

Le Figaro newspaper, which is accompanying Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian ahead of an official announcement he is set to make on the carrier on Monday, said the first reconnaissance and possible air strikes in Iraq took place in the morning. France was the first country to join the U.S.-led coalition in air strikes in Iraq against Islamic State insurgents, who have also taken control of large parts of neighboring Syria during the course of the civil war there. However, it has ruled out striking the group in Syria.

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Brutal IS tactics create new levels of trauma among Iraqis

Ari Shapiro reports for NPR:

At a camp for displaced people in northern Iraq, you pass rows of tents to reach the clinic run by the International Medical Corps. They have medicines to treat all kinds of problems: diabetes shots, vaccines, heart pills. But it's harder to cure what's afflicting one woman in particular.

"The pain inside of me is so deep," she says. "I just cry every day." Militants from the group that calls itself the Islamic State kidnapped the woman's adult son in June, and she doesn't know his fate. Her husband expresses the loss in more destructive ways. "I've become mentally ill," he says. "When my wife tries to talk to me, I just lash out. I hit her."

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Why the Iraq offensive will fail

Michael T. Flynn writes for Politico:

American officials said this week they plan to train up to 25,000 Iraqi troops in a major mission to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, from Islamic State militants sometime this spring.

The mission is welcome, but frankly it is unlikely to succeed unless there is, at the same time, a deeper understanding on the part of our government of the real threat that the Islamic State and its adherents pose to us as a nation—and what our role in this broader fight must be. Unless the United States takes dramatically more action than we have done so far in Iraq, the fractious, largely Shiite-composed units that make up the Iraqi army are not likely to be able, by themselves, to overwhelm a Sunni stronghold like Mosul, even though they outnumber the enemy by ten to one. The United States must be prepared to provide far more combat capabilities and enablers such as command and control, intelligence, logistics, and fire support, to name just a few things.

 

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Obama’s rushing to disaster in Iraq

Eli Lake writes for Bloomberg View:

Now would be a very good time for U.S. President Barack Obama to think about what happens after Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, is liberated from the Islamic State. Last week, top Pentagon officials briefed reporters about plans for the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces, with U.S. air support, to retake Mosul in April or May. Iraq's prime minister, Haidar al-Abadi, has been more sober, telling the BBC that he hoped Mosul would be retaken in a "few months." On Sunday, Iraq's new defense minister declined to say whether even this time frame was realistic.

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Battle to retake Iraqi city looms as test of Obama’s ISIS strategy

Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt report for the New York Times:

American intelligence agencies and the Pentagon are struggling to determine how difficult it will be to retake Mosul, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Iraq, as planning intensifies for a battle that is becoming a major test of the Obama administration’s strategy to stop the spread of the terrorist group in the Middle East.

The assessment will be pivotal in driving important policy and military decisions that President Obama will need to make in the coming weeks, including whether the Pentagon will need to deploy teams of American ground forces to call in allied airstrikes and advise Iraqi troops on the battlefield on the challenges of urban warfare.

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US Marines on the ground in Iraq as ISIS burns 45 alive

Riyadh Mohammed reports for the Fiscal Times:

Iraqi local officials in Iraq’s town of al-Baghdadi have warned of another ISIS mass burning massacre. The terror organization surrounded a compound several days ago that houses more than 1000 families and burned 45 people alive. “ISIS has killed more than 150 people from al-Obaid tribe...some of them were burned alive and some were beheaded...they were policemen...some of them fought against ISIS before,” said sheikh Mal Allah al-Obaidi, the head of the local council in the al-Baghdadi.

An Iraqi air base is located next to al-Baghdadi. More than 300 US military service members are providing training, and coordinating US air raids there. As the US military official at the central command announced that the US will train 12 Iraqi brigades to start an Iraqi operation to liberate the northern city of Mosul in April or May, reports emerged suggesting US Marines will conduct a limited operation in the border area between Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to strike ISIS jihadists who control the border area.

 

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Iraq civil war leader rallies Shi’ite fighters against Islamic State

Ned Parker reports for Reuters:

Abu Deraa sits at home in Baghdad's Sadr City, ringed by images of 7th century Shi'ite Muslim Imams Ali and Hussein. A hero to Shi'ite militiamen during Iraq's civil war, he no longer fights but still stirs the hearts of men now battling Islamic State.

Nearly a decade after Iraq's worst sectarian bloodletting, the country faces a new period of darkness: Sunni jihadists have captured swathes of territory in the north and west, and efforts to roll back those gains have exacerbated tensions between Sunni and Shi'ite communities. Abu Deraa, whose nom de guerre means father of the shield, is defiantly proud of his past, which includes brutal raids on Sunni areas whose residents still tremble at his name. He now sees himself as an anchor in a new war against evil forces.

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Obama admin gives cover to Iraq Shiite militia abuses: Ex U.S. official

Mustapha Ajbaili reports for Al Arabiya:

A former U.S. official and special assistant to five American ambassadors in Iraq and senior adviser to three chiefs of U.S. Central Command has accused the Obama administration of providing cover to abuses committed by pro-government Shiite militias in Iraq. In a Foreign Policy article published on Thursday, Ali Khedery describes the Iraqi government as “hopelessly sectarian, corrupt, and generally unfit to govern.”

He argues that through its response to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), “The United States is now acting as the air force, the armory, and the diplomatic cover for Iraqi militias that are committing some of the worst human rights abuses on the planet.”

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Defense secretary addresses coming battle against ISIS in Iraq

Julianna Goldman reports for CBS:

The new secretary of defense, Ashton Carter, said Saturday the U.S. may slow down the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. Carter made the announcement during his first trip to Afghanistan as defense secretary.

On the flight there, Carter also discussed an impending battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, in Iraq - the battle for Mosul. The Mosul offensive is expected to be the U.S.-led campaign's most difficult and strategically important battle yet. The Iraqi city is the largest held by ISIS, with a population of one million, occupied by an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 militant fighters.

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Iraq after the Islamic State: Politics rule

Douglass Ollivant writes for War on the Rocks:

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – known by most people in the Middle East as Daesh – will lose its battle to hold territory in Iraq. It may well take one to two years to reduce their defenses in cities like Mosul, Tikrit, and Fallujah, but the ultimate outcome is no longer in serious doubt. This does not mean there will not be sizeable battles — and perhaps ISIL tactical victories — in the coming months. This does not mean that ISIL will be eliminated as a cell-based terrorist group in Iraq. This does not mean that groups from Afghanistan to Libya may not decide to affiliate themselves with ISIL. And above all, it does not mean that there is a plan to eject ISIL from Syria. But the outcome in Iraq is now clear to most serious analysts.

However, the occupation of about one-third of Iraq’s territory by ISIL has changed the fabric and politics of Iraqi society, perhaps forever. Politics will, as always, remain primary. All three major ethno-sectarian groups in Iraq have been shifted by the ISIL earthquake, but too few are thinking at this macro political level. Instead most analysts tend to focus on the latest micro-level event, but good analysis must look beyond day-to-day headlines and, indeed, beyond the horizon. Changes at Iraq’s macro-level, combined with older trends, provide reason for both pessimism and optimism for the future of Iraq.

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