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

Obama to send 1,500 more troops to assist Iraq

HELENE COOPER and MICHAEL D. SHEAR write for the New York Times:

President Obama has authorized the deployment of an additional 1,500 American troops to Iraq in the coming months, doubling the number of Americans meant to train and advise Iraqi and Kurdish forces. The trainers and advisers are to help Iraqis and Kurds as they plan a major offensive expected next spring against Islamic State fighters who have poured into Iraq from Syria.

Pentagon officials said Friday that military advisers would establish training sites across Iraq in a significant expansion of the American military campaign in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State. A Defense Department official said that a number of military personnel would deploy specifically to Anbar Province, the Sunni stronghold in western Iraq that was the scene of bloody fighting for years after the 2003 American-led invasion. In recent months Sunni militants with the Islamic State have been seizing and holding territory across Anbar.

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ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi wounded in airstrike, Iraq officials say

AP reports:

Iraqi officials said Sunday that the head of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was wounded in an airstrike in western Anbar province. Pentagon officials said they had no immediate information on such an attack or on the militant leader being injured. Iraq's Defence and Interior ministries both issued statements saying al-Baghdadi had been wounded, without elaborating, and the news was broadcast on state-run television Sunday night.

The reports came at a time when U.S. President Barack Obama said the U.S.-led coalition was in a position to start going on the offensive against the ISIS militants. Al-Baghdadi, believed to be in his early 40s, has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head. Since taking the reins of the group in 2010, he has transformed it from a local branch of al-Qaida into an independent transnational military force.

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Iraq’s future: It’s the oil, stupid

Michael Knights writes for Al Jazeera:

This week, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi is scheduled to visit Erbil, his first visit to the capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq as premier. The lead-up to the visit has been long and torturous, including months of speculation and tactical manoeuvring over the potential form of a revenue-sharing deal between Baghdad and the Kurds.

Though less dramatic than the day-to-day fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the outcome of these negotiations could do more to cement the unity of Iraq - or hasten its break-up - than events taking place on the battlefield. For almost a year now, the Kurds have lived without their customary budget transfers from Baghdad. In previous years, the Kurds received 17 percent of net revenues from Baghdad - around a billion dollars a month - to cover $750m of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) salaries and pay for ministry programmes.

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The escalation of the war in Iraq is grounded in fantasy

William Hartung writes for the Huffington Post:

As President Obama noted in an interview on Sunday on Face the Nation, the next phase of the U.S. war in Iraq has begun. The administration announced last Friday that it would double the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, to 3,100; request an additional $5.6 billion for the war; and put U.S. trainers closer to the front lines. Add to this the recently announced deal to sell Iraq $600 million worth of tank ammunition, and it's clear that the escalation of the president's "limited" war is well under way.

Of the many fallacies underlying the current U.S. military intervention in Iraq, the greatest may be the idea that the United States has a reliable partner in the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. In his Face the Nation interview, President Obama tied the latest escalation of the war to his trust in the new Iraqi government: "Phase one was getting an Iraqi government that was inclusive and credible -- and we now have done that."

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The Kurds can’t afford to leave Iraq

LUAY AL KHATEEB and AHMED MEHDI write for the New York Times:

For the two families that govern the Kurdistan Region of Iraq — the Barzanis and Talabanis — the Islamic State’s rampage across Iraq this past summer represented an unprecedented opportunity. Taking advantage of the Iraqi army’s complete collapse, the Kurds captured the oil-rich area around Kirkuk on June 11. Soon after taking Kirkuk, President Masoud Barzani called for a referendum on independence. And he has — since 2008 — advocated circumventing Baghdad and selling Kurdish oil directly on the international market with Turkey’s help. All of this struck the rest of Iraq as opportunism.

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UK drone carries out first strike in Iraq

The BBC reports:

The UK carried out its first drone attack on Islamic State militants in Iraq over the weekend, the Ministry of Defence has said. An RAF Reaper drone was involved in coalition missions near Baiji, the site of Iraq's largest oil refinery. The MoD said the drone "successfully attacked" militants who were laying improvised explosive devices. Britain is one of about 40 nations involved in the fight against IS, which controls parts of Iraq and Syria. The UK launched its first air strikes against IS targets in Iraq on 30 September - four days after Parliament approved military action. It has also sent military trainers to help local forces in their efforts to halt the advance of IS.

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In Iraq, relief after news of Blackwater convictions

Kirk Semple writes for the New York Times:

Adel Ali Mehdi was tending his refreshments kiosk on Baghdad’s Nisour Square on Thursday when one of his regular customers stopped by with some important news: After seven years, Blackwater security contractors who had opened fire on the square had been convicted. Seventeen Iraqis were killed in that fusillade, and the customer, Hassan Jaber Salman, was among more than 20 wounded. Mr. Mehdi, from his kiosk, had seen the whole thing unfold. Both men became witnesses for American prosecutors, and the trial ended on Wednesday with convictions of four of the former guards. “Alhamdulillah,” Mr. Mehdi, 53, said to Mr. Salman. “Praise be to God.”

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Do Iraq and Syria no longer exist?

Thomas E. Ricks writes for Foreign Policy:

"Creating a soldier from an 18-year-old civilian is easy in most Western nations. We make them physically tough, give them the military skill sets necessary to prosecute the mission, and amplify what my British colleagues call the moral component. This final part of the soldierization phase is essentially a trust in national institutions and a belief in the chain of command from squad leader to the commander-in-chief. For a Westerner, the moral component is built over the new soldier's lifetime and is strengthened in uniform.

For countries without a strong democratic tradition, establishing the moral component is a real challenge and particularly so for me and my team as we rebuilt the Iraqi Army in 2003. Fifteen hundred years of the paternalism of Islam and over three decades of Saddam's despotism are hard to overcome.

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Iraq gets a White House as Kurdish tycoon builds a replica

Donna Abu-Nasr writes for Bloomberg:

Shihab N. Shihab reckons he’s going one better than U.S. President Barack Obama. After admiring the White House in Washington for its “beauty and simplicity,” the Kurdish businessman is building a $20 million replica in the Iraqi city of Erbil replete with layers of Italian 21-carat gold leaf covering banisters and ceilings and Greek marble columns that grace the entrance. “I get to keep my bedroom for the rest of my life while Obama has to vacate it when his term ends,” Shihab, 58, said with a chuckle during a tour of the premises last week.

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Iraq PM seeks more Jordan help to battle ISIS

AFP reports :

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi called for greater cooperation with Jordan in the battle against the Islamic State jihadist group, as he held talks Sunday in Amman, state media reported. Jordan, which borders Iraq’s Anbar province, much of which has been overrun by ISIS, is one of several countries taking part in U.S.-led air strikes against the extremist group that began in Iraq but has since been expanded to Syria.

Abadi met separately with King Abdullah II and Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur. He briefed Nsur on what he called “security and terrorist challenges facing Iraq, particularly ones from Daesh which is destroying Iraqi civilisation,” Jordan’s state news agency Petra said.

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