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

U.S., Iraq prepare offensive to retake Mosul from Islamic State

Julian E. Barnes reports for the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. and Iraq have begun preparations for an assault by summer to retake Mosul, selecting and training military units and cutting supply lines to Islamic State militants who control Iraq’s second-largest city, the top American commander in the Middle East said. Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of the military’s Central Command, told The Wall Street Journal that the international campaign against Islamic State has inflicted significant damage. Opposing forces have reclaimed about 300 square miles of territory in Iraq and killed some 6,000 members of the Sunni radical group, eliminating about half its leadership.

U.S. defense officials have bristled under criticism from Iraqi officials and others that the campaign against Islamic State is stalled or moving too slowly. U.S. Central Command is eager to show that airstrikes are having an effect on the ground and that the American and Iraqi militaries have a plan to continue to drive fighters out of their key strongholds in Iraq.

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Tensions emerge between Iraq, US-led coalition in battle against Islamic State group

Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Vivian Salama report for AP:

Iraqi commanders heavily dependent on outside support to defeat the Islamic State group are increasingly voicing frustration over the U.S.-led coalition's efforts, complaining of miscommunication, failed deliveries of weapons, inadequate training and differences in strategy. Speaking to The Associated Press this week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said, "We want to see an acceleration of the training, acceleration of the delivery of arms" from foreign allies.

Al-Abadi complained that Iraq is "left almost alone to get these arms and munitions for the army, for our fighters, and we expect much more." At the same time, he reiterated that his government does not want any foreign boots on the ground, and he acknowledged that coalition airstrikes had been "very, very effective."

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Coalition needs two years to expel ISIS from Iraq: UK

Andrew Osborn reports for Reuters:

The U.S.-led coalition could take up to two years to expel Islamic State from Iraq, and Baghdad's own forces will be incapable of proper combat operations for months, Britain's foreign minister warned on Thursday. Speaking before he hosted a meeting of 21 coalition members in London, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the task of pushing the Islamist militants back would be slow.

“This isn't going to be done in three months or six months. It's going to take a year, two years to push ISIL (IS) back out of Iraq but we are doing the things that need to be done in order to turn the tide,” Hammond told Sky News. Thursday's meeting, attended by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, will examine ways of intensifying the campaign against IS in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere by doing more militarily, more to cut off the group's finances and more to stem the flow of foreign fighters.

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Citing plunge in oil prices, Iraq seeks arms on credit to fight ISIS

Michael R. Gordon reports for the New York Times:

Battered by a sharp decline in oil prices, Iraq is asking Western allies to provide weapons on credit for its fight against the Islamic State until Baghdad is in a better position to pay. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq said on Thursday that oil exports accounted for 85 percent of his government’s budget and that the precipitous drop in prices was posing a fresh challenge to the Iraqi government as it was trying to push back Islamic State militants.

“This has been disastrous for us,” Mr. Abadi said. “One thing we are asking for is deferred payment. That’s one solution. And I think our coalition partner has been very receptive of this.”

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Iraq beat Iran on penalties in the Asian Cup

Julian Linden reports for Reuters:

Iraq beat Iran 7-6 on penalties to reach the semi-finals of the Asian Cup on Friday after the two Middle Eastern rivals played out one of the most extraordinary matches in the tournament's history. With police heavily patrolling the stands and the tension escalating with each new dramatic development, Iraq fought back to beat a 10-man Iran after the teams finished tied at 1-1 at the end of normal time and then 3-3 after extra time.

Defender Salam Shakir calmly converted the decisive penalty after Vahid Amiry missed for Iran, hitting the post, sending Iraq through to the semi-finals against South Korea.

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Iraq back from the brink with record oil figures

Yousef Gamal El-Din reports for CNBC:

In spite of still struggling to recover from the 2003 war and the continuing Islamic State (IS) insurgency, Iraq produced a record amount of oil last month, the country's oil minister announced at the weekend. Unveiling production of 4 million barrels of crude per day in December, Adel Abdel Mehdi told reporters that the total was " a historical figure, and the first time Iraq has achieved this."

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart Taner Yildiz in Baghdad, the Iraqi minister added the production increase would "make up" for the recent slump in oil prices. Iraq, where lawmakers are now looking at a 2015 draft budget based on an average of $60 dollars a barrel, depends on crude exports to generate over 90 percent of government revenues.

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Meet the Americans on the front lines in the fight against ISIS

Rebecca Collard reports for Time:

The U.S. has said it won’t be sending soldiers to fight ISIS but some Americans have found their own way there.When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) surrounded the Yezidi tribes on Sinjar Mountain in August last year, Dean Parker was at his job as a commercial painter in the U.S.. That evening, he saw news reports of Kurdish fighters trying to liberate the mountain. “I made the decision right there,” says Parker, now sitting in his hotel room in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah. “I was online booking a ticket.” He packed body armour, boots, clothes and downloaded a copy of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War on his e-reader. He left the U.S. without telling his family. A month later the 49-year-old grandfather and surfer had traded his paintbrush and board for a rifle and was inside Syria.

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Saudi Arabia builds Iraq border wall to protect against ISIS

Audi Cornish reports for NPR:

Audie Cornish talks with Saudi Arabia expert Gregory Gause about how the country views the ISIS threat. The kingdom is building a 600-mile border wall along its northern border with Iraq.

ISIS isn't just a threat to Iraq and Syria. As the group spread across Iraq last summer and fall, neighboring Saudi Arabia started building a 600 mile fence aimed at keeping militants out. The Saudis are adding chain link razor wire fencing, silent alarms, watchtowers armed with video, along with thermal and night vision surveillance. Gregory Gause is head of the International Affairs Department at Texas A&M University's Bush School of Government and Public Service. I asked him if his high-tech barrier signals Saudi Arabia's fear of an outright invasion by ISIS.

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Iraq war inquiry report delayed until after election

Danica Kirka reports for AP:

The report of an inquiry into Britain's role in the Iraq war will be delayed until after a national election in May, its chairman said, provoking dismay from politicians of all parties Wednesday. Sir John Chilcot, a former senior civil servant who is heading an inquiry that began in 2009, wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron saying that the report was being delayed because individuals mentioned in it need a chance to respond.

"Until we have received and evaluated responses from all those who have been given the opportunity to respond, I cannot give an accurate estimate for how long it will then take to complete our work, but it is still clear that will take some further months," Chilcot said in the letter, released Wednesday. "I therefore see no realistic prospect of delivering our report to you before the General Election in May 2015."

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Canadians closer to combat in Iraq than U.S. troops

Andrew Tilghman writes for the Military Times:

American troops in Iraq appear to be more cautious than Canadians. A Canadian general revealed Monday that his special operations troops in Iraq are now routinely going out with Iraqi soldiers "to the forward-most Iraqi fighting positions" and providing "eyes on" to help coalition airstrikes by "marking the target with a laser." The mission described by Canadian Brig. Gen. Mike Rouleau, commander of Canadian Special Operations Forces, is very different from the one U.S. officials say American service members are performing in Iraq.

According to the Pentagon, U.S. troops on the "advise and assist mission" are staying out of harm's way inside headquarters facilities with Iraqi units at the brigade level or higher. These U.S. missions are underway only in several locations, including Baghdad, Taji and Al Asad Air Base in Anbar.

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