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

Iraq approves Aussie special forces on the ground

David Wroe writes for the Syndey Morning Herald:

Australian special forces have been cleared to start work on the ground in Iraq, helping local troops as they face the grinding task of driving Islamic State fighters out of their stronghold towns and cities. Prime Minister Tony Abbott is expected to announce on Tuesday that the final legal hurdles with the Iraqi government have been cleared, meaning the Australian commandos can begin their "advise and assist" work with the Iraqis. The paperwork from Baghdad came as RAAF Super Hornet fighters returned safely to the United Arab Emirates from their first combat mission in Iraq, providing air cover for local troops in the country's north, though they did not launch weapons.



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Iran orders elite troops: lay off U.S. forces in Iraq

Eli Lake writes for the Daily Beast:

The last time Iranian and American forces were in Iraq, the two sides quietly fought each other. Now Iran’s Quds Force officers in Iraq are purposely leaving the Americans alone. Pay no attention to the Shi'ite militias threatening to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. The elite Iranian forces backing those militias have been ordered not to attack the Americans. That’s the conclusion of the latest U.S. intelligence assessment for Iraq. And it represents a stunning turnaround for Iran’s Quds Force, once considered America’s most dangerous foe in the region. U.S. intelligence officials tell The Daily Beast that the apparent Iranian decision not to target American troops inside Iraq reflects Iran’s desire to strike a nuclear bargain with the United States and the rest of the international community before the current negotiations expire at the end of November.

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Islamic State jihadists are using water as a weapon in Iraq

Eric Cunningham writes for the Washington Post:

The Islamic State militants who have rampaged across northern Iraq are increasingly using water as a weapon, cutting off supplies to villages resisting their rule and pressing to expand their control over the country’s water infrastructure. The threat from the jihadists is so critical that U.S. forces are bombing the militants close to both the Mosul and Haditha dams — Iraq’s largest — on a near-daily basis. But the radical Islamists continue to menace both facilitie.The Sunni militants want to seize the dams to bolster their claim they are building an actual state; the dams are key to irrigating the country’s vast wheat fields and providing Iraqis with electricity. More ominously, the Islamic State has used its control over water facilities — including as many as four dams along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers — to displace communities or deprive them of crucial water supplies.

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Turkey says Syrian town about to fall as Islamic State moves in

Daren Butler and Oliver Holmes report for Reuters:

Turkey's president said Kobani was "about to fall" after Islamic State fighters advanced into the south west of the Syrian Kurdish town, pressing home a three-week assault that has cost a reported 400 lives. The prospect that the town on the Turkish border could be captured by the militants has increased pressure on Turkey, with the strongest army in the region, to join an international coalition to fight against Islamic State. Islamic State wants to take Kobani in order to strengthen its grip on the border area and consolidate the territorial gains it has made in Iraq and Syria in recent months. U.S.-led air strikes have so far failed to prevent its advance on Kobani.

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Kobane: Islamic State widens attack on border town

BBC reports :

Fighting continues to rage in the Syria-Turkey border town of Kobane, with Islamic State (IS) militants moving into a southern district. The US-led coalition has carried out more air strikes to try to aid the Syrian Kurd defenders. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned air strikes were not enough and Kobane was "about to fall". At least 400 people have died in three weeks of fighting for Kobane, monitors say, and 160,000 Syrians have fled. If IS captures Kobane, its jihadists will control a long stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border. Separately, a Kurdish demonstrator has been killed in clashes with Turkish police in the town of Varto, news agencies say, as Kurds widen their protests against what they view as Turkey's inaction over Kobane.

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Abadi opposes Arab strikes in Iraq

BBC reports :

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has told the BBC he "totally" opposes Arab nations joining air strikes against Islamic State in his country. In an interview, he said Western air power had "filled many gaps" in Iraq's fight against the jihadist group. Several Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and Jordan, have joined the international coalition against IS. Their aircraft have carried out strikes in Syria, but only those from the US, UK and France have hit targets in Iraq. On Wednesday evening, France said it would send a further three fighter jets and a warship to the Gulf to support the fight against IS. According to the French military, the Rafale jets would be deployed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), bringing to nine the total number of French aircraft operating from a base there.

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6 Reasons ISIS airstrikes aren’t the next Iraq war

Nick Robbins-Early writes for the Huffington Post:

As the U.S.-led air campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria continues, some are worried that the operation carries echoes of the U.S. rush to war in Iraq a decade ago. In addition to the fact that U.S. missiles are once again dropping on Iraq, skeptics also point to similarities such as dubious legality, the lack of UN Security Council approval and an American public frightened about potentially over-hyped national security threats.

But despite these parallels, there are a number of fundamental differences between the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the 2014 operation against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Here are a few reasons why the current campaign is much more than simply a repeat of history.

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Stephen Harper confirms 26 Canadian soldiers now in Iraq

Laura Payton reports for CBC News:

Canada has only 26 soldiers in Iraq serving as military advisers, rather than the 69 troops the government had said it was sending, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the House of Commons on Wednesday. Earlier Wednesday, New Democrats said that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told them in an email that only 26 special forces troops were on the ground in northern Iraq to help fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, rather than the 69.

Harper's confirmation came in response to a query from NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, who posed another series of short, pointed questions about Canada's deployment during question period. "It is 26 [Canadian soldiers in Iraq] today," Harper said. "The government has authorized 69, as is well-known. That's obviously a maximum. Those numbers will fluctuate depending on the decisions of operational commanders."

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Kurds in Iraq’s north make gains against Islamic State

Kirk Semple writes for the New York Times:

Kurdish fighters opened offensives against Islamic State militants in several parts of northern Iraq on Tuesday, seizing control of a border crossing with Syria that has been a major conduit for the insurgents, officials said. In a predawn push, pesh merga forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government fought their way into the Rabia district, near the Syrian border, seizing control of two villages by late morning and, by day’s end, the border crossing, Kurdish officials said.

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, had controlled Rabia since early June, when jihadist fighters swept across the border from Syria and quickly overwhelmed Iraqi security forces throughout the region, including in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.


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A litmus test for Kurdistan

Jenna Krajeski and Sebastian Meyer write for the New York Times:

When Iraqi Kurds say that Kirkuk is their Jerusalem, they are referring both to the city’s cultural significance and to the trouble it causes. Kurds invoke a special attachment to the oil-rich city, citing historical ties and decades of bloodshed under Saddam Hussein in their fight to secure independence for the entire region of Kurdistan. They insist that Kirkuk — which both they and the national government in Baghdad claim, and whose very size is contested, with estimates ranging from under one million to 1.6 million — should be part of any autonomous Kurdish state. This demand unnerves other ethnic groups in Kirkuk: While Kurdistan is mostly Kurdish, Kirkuk is also home to large populations of Turkmen and Arabs, among others.

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