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

Iran arms exports to Iraq tolerated in fight against Isis says report

The Guardian reports:

A bulletin from the Expediency Council, a state body chaired by influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has offered rare insight into Iran’s strategic thinking over Iraq. The report, from the council’s Centre for Strategic Research, entitled Concerns about Iraq and Considerations for the Future, has not been widely publicized. The author, Hassan Ahmadian, is an analyst at the council.

One “positive event of major importance” highlighted by Ahmadian is the west’s acceptance of Iranian weapons sales to Iraq insofar as they contribute to the broader struggle against the Islamic State group (Isis), despite a United Nations embargo on Iranian arms exports. But the report also warns that a weakening of Isis will lead the west one again to question Iran’s role.

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The Iraq conflict is becoming a tale of two regions

Tim Lister reports for CNN:

The mortar was dropped into the launch tube, but nothing happened. A prod, a kick and a shake failed to stir it. Eventually one of the Kurdish fighters at this position near Mosul unceremoniously tipped the tube upside down, picked up the offending shell and lobbed it over the sandbags, where mercifully it failed to explode.

About 100 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters were at this frontline position in Eski Mosul late last week, perhaps the most contested piece of real estate in northern Iraq. It sits at a junction that leads from Mosul to Tal Afar and beyond to the Syrian border -- a critical supply line for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Supported by coalition air strikes, the Kurds swept down to seize the area late last month.

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Iraq Shiite militias rush to defend oil-rich Kirkuk from IS

Vivian Salama and Bram Janssen report for AP:

Shiite prayers billow from a mosque loudspeaker at a sprawling Iraqi military base on the fringes of the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk as Shiite militiamen, most of them in mismatched military fatigues, shuttle back and forth to nearby front-lines, eager for a taste of victory against the Islamic State group. When the IS militants blitzed across northern and western Iraq last year, tens of thousands of Shiite men answered a call-to-arms by the country's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, to defend the nation against the Sunni extremists.

Now the Shiite militiamen have arrived in Kirkuk, long one of Iraq's most hotly disputed territories, and have made a string of bases just 10 kilometers (six miles) from the city their home. A marriage of convenience has since emerged with Iraq's strained Kurdish forces, which had been exclusively in charge of the city since last year when they repelled IS advances.

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The epicenter of Iraq’s next civil war

Jesse Rosenfeld reports for the Daily Beast :

Tensions in the ancient city of Kirkuk are threatening to boil over as Kurdish forces move to turn their battle lines with ISIS into the border for a Kurdish state. The city traditionally has had a mix of Iraq’s main ethnic and confessional groups—Kurds, Turkmens (many of whom are Shia), Shia Arabs and Sunni Arabs. But the province is rich in oil and natural gas that the Kurds deem essential as they plan for economic independence, especially since the Kurdistan Regional Government signed a major oil deal with Turkey. They don’t intend to share it. And hostilities with Shia Arabs are growing increasingly dangerous.

Even though ISIS, the so-called Islamic State, is practically on the city’s doorstep, Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, has opposed arming the city’s Arab and Turkmen population since Kurdish forces took control of the region from the Iraqi government last summer. The Kurdish advance came after ISIS took the city of Tikrit, which lies to the south between Kirkuk and Baghdad.

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How Iran is making it impossible for the U.S. to beat ISIS

Michael Weiss and Michael Pregent write for The Daily Beast:

It was August 2007, and General David Petraeus, the top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, was angry. In his weekly report to then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Petraeus wrote: “I am considering telling the President that I believe Iran is, in fact, waging war on the U.S. in Iraq, with all of the U.S. public and governmental responses that could come from that revelation. … I do believe that Iran has gone beyond merely striving for influence in Iraq and could be creating proxies to actively fight us, thinking that they can keep us distracted while they try to build WMD and set up [the Mahdi Army] to act like Lebanese Hezbollah in Iraq.”

There was no question there and then on the ground in Iraq that Iran was a very dangerous enemy. There should not be any question about that now, either. And the failure of the Obama administration to come to grips with that reality is making the task of defeating the so-called Islamic State more difficult—indeed, more likely to be impossible—every day.

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Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi: We plan to regain Mosul

BBC reports :

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has told the BBC's John Simpson that Iraq is making preparations to move against the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. He also said that when he took office five months ago, he was surprised at the lack of support from the US. However, he said that has changed significantly in the last four weeks with ''an acceleration of support''.

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CIA is said to have bought and destroyed Iraqi chemical weapons

C. J. Chivers and Eric Schmitt write for the New York Times:

The Central Intelligence Agency, working with American troops during the occupation of Iraq, repeatedly purchased nerve-agent rockets from a secretive Iraqi seller, part of a previously undisclosed effort to ensure that old chemical weapons remaining in Iraq did not fall into the hands of terrorists or militant groups, according to current and former American officials.

The extraordinary arms purchase plan, known as Operation Avarice, began in 2005 and continued into 2006, and the American military deemed it a nonproliferation success. It led to the United States’ acquiring and destroying at least 400 Borak rockets, one of the internationally condemned chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein’s Baathist government manufactured in the 1980s but that were not accounted for by United Nations inspections mandated after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

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Pro-Iran militias’ success in Iraq could undermine U.S.

Liz Sly reports for the Washington Post:

Shiite militias backed by Iran are increasingly taking the lead in Iraq’s fight against the Islamic State, threatening to undermine U.S. strategies intended to bolster the central government, rebuild the Iraqi army and promote reconciliation with the country’s embittered Sunni minority. With an estimated 100,000 to 120,000 armed men, the militias are rapidly eclipsing the depleted and demoralized Iraqi army, whose fighting strength has dwindled to about 48,000 troops since the government forces were routed in the northern city of Mosul last summer, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.

A recent offensive against Islamic State militants in the province of Diyala led by the Badr Organization further reinforced the militias’ standing as the dominant military force across a swath of territory stretching from southern Iraq to Kirkuk in the north.

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Islamic State expands despite U.S.-led air campaign

Jim Michaels reports for USA Today :

Since exploding onto the world stage as a conquering force in Iraq a year ago, the Islamic State has expanded its reach across the Middle East despite a U.S.-led bombing campaign that has killed thousands of militants and destroyed tons of their equipment. Monday, Egypt launched an airstrike against Islamic State targets in neighboring Libya after the terrorist group posted a video of militants beheading a group of Egyptian Christians.

This month, U.S. forces killed a former Taliban leader in southern Afghanistan who had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State weeks earlier. The Pentagon said the group's presence in Afghanistan was nascent but demonstrated its global aspirations.

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HRW: Iraq’s pro-govt militias abusing civilians

Al Arabiya reports :

Abuses perpetrated by militias linked to Iraqi security forces have escalated in recent months, forcing at least 3,000 people in Sunni areas to flee their homes, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday. Residents in the Muqdadiyya area of Iraq’s Diyala Province have been barred from returning to their homes, the right group said. Additionally, the international rights group reports that civilians have been kidnapped and in some instances “summarily executed.”

Allied militias and Iraqi forces began harassing residents in June, shortly after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group took over Iraq’s largest city Mosul, and the abuse escalated around October, residents told HRW. “Iraqi civilians are being hammered by ISIS and then by pro-government militias in areas they seize from ISIS,” Joe Stork, the group’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director, said.

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