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

Iraq paid $10 billion for rusty Iranian arms

Abdulrahman al-Rashed writes for Al Arabiya:

A recent Associated Press report spoke of Iran’s increased domination over Iraq under the cover of supporting it against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) organization. According to the report’s sources, the Iranians have sold Iraq nearly $10 billion worth of weapons to confront terrorism. These weapons include Kalashnikovs, rocket launchers and ammunition and the value of this weaponry may not even exceed $50 million! Of course, it's needless to explain that $10 billion is a massive amount enough to have bought advanced armory from prominent countries which produce military hardware instead of rusty simple arms from Iran. But the objective was to fund Iran’s military needs during this phase in which it confronts domestic economic pressures.

The Iraqis who are currently overjoyed with this Iranian support will in the future end up complaining about Tehran’s domination over them. They will complain that they cannot freely take decisions according to their national interests. Iraq will then become submissive to Iran due to the latter’s increased political and security influence – just as Lebanon came under Syria’s influence in the 1970s when the latter’s troops entered the country to save it from Palestinian militias and only withdrew after 30 years of a quasi-occupation and after a threat by the U.N. Security Council.

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Winston Churchill’s map of Iraq ready to unravel over oil

Bloomberg reports:

Winston Churchill understood the significance of the black stuff seeping to the surface in the Kurdish plains of Mesopotamia when he included the region within Iraq as the British forged the country in the 1920s. In doing so, Churchill, the colonial secretary at the time, set in train almost a century of bickering between the Iraqi government and its Kurdish enclave over the area’s estimated 45 billion barrels of crude.

While their latest dispute was temporarily resolved last month to help finance the struggle against ISIL, the accord has not addressed differences between administrations in Baghdad and Erbil that include the future of Kirkuk, northern Iraq’s main oil hub. The Iraqi government started pumping crude from Kirkuk through Kurdish pipes that bypass militant-held territory to Turkey, Iraq’s Almada newspaper reported on January 1.

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Dispute between El Cajon priest and Chaldean leader in Iraq continues

Tony Perry writes for the Los Angeles Times:

Intervention by Pope Francis has apparently not solved the schism between a prominent Chaldean priest in eastern San Diego County and the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq. At issue is a demand by Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako that Father Noel Gorgis and several other Chaldean priests in the United States return to Iraq or face, in effect, excommunication.

In an interview with Aleteia, a Rome-based Catholic news agency, Sako said that the survival of the church is at stake during the onslaught by Islamic radicals. “We have been there for 2,000 years,” he said. “We have a mission and a role, and if a future exists for the Chaldean Church, it is not in the diaspora but in Iraq. If all the families leave, and even the priests, the entire history and Chaldean Christian patrimony will vanish.” Gorgis, known as Father Noel, is pastor at St. Peters Chaldean Church in El Cajon. Along with the Detroit area, eastern San Diego County has been a major resettling spot for Iraqi immigrants.

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Iraq: Greater support needed for uprooted communities

The ICRC reports:

At the end of a six-day visit to Iraq, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) vowed to scale up assistance to displaced people and the communities hosting them. President Peter Maurer witnessed the difficult conditions endured by people as a result of ongoing fighting, long periods of displacement, loss of property, and freezing temperatures. He joined ICRC teams distributing food and other relief and visited a facility that provides clean drinking water to displaced people.

"This week I have heard heartbreaking stories of families uprooted violently from their homes and separated from their loved ones," said Mr Maurer. "The people of Iraq have shown extraordinary solidarity with their fellow countrymen and women who have fled the violence in their thousands. When the ICRC comes to deliver aid to the displaced, it finds that local communities have already received these people in distress with open arms and great generosity. But in the face of the enormous suffering of the displaced and the additional pressure on host communities and services, we all have a duty to ensure that their basic needs in terms of food, water, health care and shelter are met."

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Iraq raises Basrah crude price for Asia, follows Saudi lead

Bruce Stanley reports for Bloomberg:

Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer, raised the selling price for February shipments to Asia of its main Basrah Light crude by 30 cents a barrel, after Saudi Arabia boosted its pricing to the region. Iraq set Basrah Light at a discount of $3.70 a barrel to the average of Middle Eastern benchmark Oman and Dubai grades, the country’s Oil Marketing Co. said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. The announcement followed increases Jan. 5 by Saudi Arabia, the biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, for its main grades to Asia. Iran raised its February prices to Asia last week.

The Basrah Light discount for February, while narrower than the January discount of $4 a barrel, was greater than for any other month since at least August 2003, when Bloomberg began compiling data.

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Iraq may need three years to restructure and rebuild military: PM

Malak Ghobrial reports for Reuters :

Iraq may need three years to rebuild and restructure its military, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Sunday, as the country battles Islamic State militants who pose the biggest threat to its security since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. The ultra-hardline militant group seeking to redraw the map of the Middle East swept through the north last June virtually unopposed by the army, raising alarm bells among Baghdad's Western allies and in Arab capitals.

Corruption is widely blamed for the near collapse of the army, which received billions of dollars in support from the United States during the American occupation but has failed to stabilize Iraq, a major OPEC oil producer.

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Sweden may send troops to Iraq to counter ISIS threat

RT reports:

Swedish Foreign Minister Margo Wallstrom said that Stockholm may send military personnel to Iraq. The troops would train soldiers to help Baghdad in its fight against Islamic State forces. The minister ruled out sending combat troops. ''We have seen the possibility of sending a smaller unit which could help train military personnel,'' Wallstrom said during a military conference in the Swedish resort of Salen on Sunday, according to Anadolu Agency.

Wallstrom did not specify the size of the potential deployment, but said the personnel would be sent exclusively to train Kurdish peshmerga forces. The Social Democratic minister noted that Germany would lead the training mission, and that Finnish troops would contribute as well.

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Iran has never been more influential in Iraq

Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra report for AP:

In the eyes of most Iraqis, their country's best ally in the war against the Islamic State group is not the United States and the coalition air campaign against the militants. It's Iran, which is credited with stopping the extremists' march on Baghdad. Shiite, non-Arab Iran has effectively taken charge of Iraq's defense against the Sunni radical group, meeting the Iraqi government's need for immediate help on the ground.

Two to three Iranian military aircraft a day land at Baghdad airport, bringing in weapons and ammunition. Iran's most potent military force and best known general — the Revolutionary Guard's elite Quds Force and its commander Gen. Ghasem Soleimani — are organizing Iraqi forces and have become the de facto leaders of Iraqi Shiite militias that are the backbone of the fight. Iran carried out airstrikes to help push militants from an Iraqi province on its border.

 

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USAF employing significantly more munitions against the Islamic State

Gareth Jennings writes for IHS Janes Defence Weekly :

The US Air Force (USAF) has employed considerably more munitions in its campaign against the Islamic State over recent weeks, the service disclosed on 6 January. This increased expenditure of weaponry was revealed in an article on deployed USAF armourers that was published on the service's official website.

"[Prior to being deployed] I had no idea how high tempo the mission was going to be or how many munitions we would be building," a senior airman said in the piece, adding, "In the last three months we have already built over nine times the amount of munitions than the last rotation did in their entire six [months]." While the previous rotation did include a period before airstrikes were launched, the numbers of munitions now being expended is significant. According to the air force, more than 500 GBU-38 and GBU-54 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) precision-guided bombs have been dropped since the beginning of October 2014.

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The Obama administration has made a striking choice in Iraq

Armin Rosen and and Michael B. Kelley write for Business Insider:

The US is stepping up its assistance to the Iraq, with plans to send 175 M1 Abrams tanks and scores of armored vehicles to an army that's hasn't been a trustworthy recipient of American aid. And now Bloomberg is reporting that Iranian-backed Shi'ite sectarian militias are receiving equipment intended for the Iraqi military's sole use, with the likely complicity of officials in Iraq's security apparatus.

According to Eli Lake and Josh Rogin, US weapons are "winding up in the possession of the country’s Shiite militias." American policymakers are aware of this but have decided that the moral hazard of supplying an Iraqi army that in turn supplies Shi'ite militias pales in comparison to the dangers of another ISIS blitz.

 

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