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

U.S. military doubles the number of civilians it admits killing in anti-ISIS fight

Dan Lamothe writes for The Washington Post:

The U.S. military on Friday acknowledged killing 20 civilians and wounding 11 more in recent airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, more than doubling the number of civilian fatalities it has admitted causing in the military campaign against the Islamic State.

The nine errant airstrikes occurred between Sept. 10 and Feb. 2, U.S. Central Command said in a statement. Six of the strikes occurred in Iraq, and three occurred in Syria, U.S. military officials said.

“We deeply regret the unintentional loss of life and injuries resulting from those strikes and express our deepest sympathies to the victims’ families and those affected,” the military’s statement said.

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U.S. military chief pays quiet visit to Iraq post where Marine died

Missy Ryan writes for The Washington Post:

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, paid a visit on Friday to a tiny artillery outpost in Iraq, presenting Purple Hearts to four service members wounded in a recent rocket attack that also killed an American Marine.

During a stop in Iraqi Kurdistan at the end of a three-day visit to Iraq, Dunford slipped away by helicopter to Fire Base Bell, a tiny post adjacent to a larger Iraqi base southeast of Mosul. Accompanied by only a handful of aides, Dunford spent about 90 minutes with the approximately 200 Marines at the isolated facility, close to the front lines with the Islamic State.

Speaking to reporters later in the day, Dunford said he distributed the awards at the very gun position where Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin, a member of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was killed last month in a militant rocket attack.

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The Baghdad Follies

The New York Times Editorial Board writes:

Iraq, engaged in a brutal war against the Islamic State, faces myriad other problems, including a depleted treasury and a weakening dam in Mosul that if not repaired could flood a huge strip of territory and kill thousands. None of these problems can be effectively addressed given the failure of governance and societal cohesion that has now produced another political crisis.

On Tuesday Salim al-Jubouri, the Parliament speaker, suspended Parliament, days after lawmakers voted to remove him and elected an interim replacement. The turmoil centers on political corruption and fiscal mismanagement, which have become major issues since oil prices collapsed in 2014, sharply reducing the country’s main revenue source as Iraq’s military battles ISIS.

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Suicide bomber kills at least eight at Iraq Shiite mosque

AFP reports:

A suicide bomber targeted Shiite worshippers at a Baghdad mosque after Friday prayers, killing at least eight people, security and medical officials said.

The attack in southwest Baghdad also wounded at least 31 people, the officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but the ISIS carries out frequent suicide bombings targeting Shiites, whom it considers heretics.

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U.S. visit highlights obstacles to an Iraqi offensive on Mosul

Missy Ryan writes for The Washington Post:

At this bleak and dusty military outpost south of Baghdad, soldiers from Iraq’s 9th Armored Division say they are ready to fight the Islamic State. Just give them the right weapons.

Maj. Mohamed Abdul Kareem al-Kadhim, one of about 1,200 Iraqi soldiers undergoing training here, said he and his fellow troops have already received M16 rifles. But they are waiting for the government to provide heavy rounds needed for exercises on their T-72 Soviet-era tanks. Until then, he said, they will improvise the best they can.

Some of the 9th Division troops receiving instruction from Spanish, Portuguese, British and American trainers at Besmaya are seasoned soldiers who have fought against Islamic State militants in Ramadi and elsewhere. But many from Kadhim’s unit, recruits both young and old, have only a few weeks in uniform after being pulled from civilian work to reinforce the battle against the well-armed extremist group.

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Reforming Baghdad

Kyle McEneaney writes for Foreign Affairs:

Iraq’s outlook is bleak. Low oil prices have devastated the nation’s finances, which are already strained by the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) and the flood of internally displaced refugees that has come with it. Although Iraqi forces and their affiliates have regained ground against ISIS, uprooting the group entirely will be a lengthy and expensive ordeal. All the while, Iraq's critical oil pipelines and infrastructure are being damaged and, in some cases, destroyed. This has reduced domestic fuel supply and curtailed oil exports.

There is, however, an even larger threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and prosperity: its bloated, inefficient government sector. Iraq's bureaucracy devours the major portion of the country’s resources, yet it fails to deliver basic services and infrastructure or to create real economic development. Seventy percent of the country’s budget is spent on payroll for state employees who do very little. According to Mudher Salih, an economic adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, public sector workers are productive for an average of just 15 minutes per day. State-owned factories, already hampered by outdated and poorly maintained equipment, produce at only a fraction of capacity, yet they employ many more workers than they need.

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Senior ISIS figure in Iraq targeted in US-led raid

AFP reports:

A senior ISIS figure in Iraq has been targeted in a US-led commando raid, the Pentagon said Wednesday, as Kurdish officials claimed he had been killed.

The assault late Sunday, the latest raid by US special operators on a mission to kill or capture ISIS leaders, occurred at an undisclosed location in northern Iraq and targeted Suleiman Abd Shabib al-Jabouri, Baghdad-based US military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said.

He worked as “one of ISIL’s military emirs and an ISIL war council member,” Warren told Pentagon reporters in a phone call, using an acronym for the ISIS group.

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Turkey kills 32 suspected Islamic State militants after attack in Iraq: CNN Turk

Reuters reports:

Turkish armed forces on Tuesday killed 32 suspected Islamic State militants in the Bashiqa area of northern Iraq in response to an attack on a Turkish tank at a military camp there, broadcaster CNN Turk reported.

CNN Turk said Turkish soldiers had killed 10 Islamic State militants during an operation that destroyed a building, and had killed another 22 militants as they fled. The report could not immediately be verified.

NATO member Turkey has soldiers stationed at the Bashiqa camp near the city of Mosul, which it says are training local forces to fight Islamic State.

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Turkish government rejected ceasefire with PKK -opposition politician

Reuters reports:

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group wanted a ceasefire with the Turkish government a few months ago but it was rejected by Ankara, the leader of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party said on Wednesday.

"A few months ago, we were in contact with Qandil (PKK) in an effort to return to the negotiating table. The government knew that we were working for this but the government rejected it," Selahattin Demirtas, co-head of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), said at a news conference in Istanbul.

The 2-1/2-year ceasefire between the outlawed PKK and the government broke down in July, dragging Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast into some of its worst fighting since the height of the insurgency in the 1990s.

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New rules allow more civilian casualties in air war against ISIL

Tom Vanden Brook writes for USA Today:

The Pentagon has approved airstrikes that risk more civilian casualties in order to destroy Islamic State targets as part of its increasingly aggressive fight against the militant group in Iraq and Syria, according to interviews with military officials and data.

Since last fall, the Pentagon has delegated more authority to the commander of the war, Army Lt. Gen.Sean MacFarland, to approve targets when there is the risk that civilians could be killed. Previously, authority for missions with the potential to kill innocents had been made by the higher headquarters of U.S. Central Command. Seeking approval from above takes time, and targets of fleeting opportunity can be missed.

Six Defense Department officials, all speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to describe how Islamic State targets are selected and attacked, described a sliding scale of probable civilian casualties based on the value of the target and the location. For example, a strike with the potential to wound or kill several civilians would be permitted if it prevented ISIL fighters from causing greater harm.

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