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

How to overcome Iraq’s economic crisis

Ali Mamouri writes for Al Monitor:

Iraq’s economic crisis is about to get worse. The government, which relies on oil for 90% of its revenue and 80% of foreign exchange earnings, faces plunging oil prices combined with rampant corruption and the exorbitant cost of battling the Islamic State (IS). Iraqi officials must come up with solutions that take all those circumstances into account.

The country's economic problem is influenced particularly by two factors. The first is related to Iraq's socialist economic system and its absence of an economic infrastructure and free active market correlated with global markets. The Iraqi infrastructure is significantly damaged as a result of long-term wars and sanctions. The economic system was mostly controlled by the government for more than half a century. Although the private market has significantly grown since 2003, it remains weak. Moreover, the local private market does not contribute to the global market.

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Officials warned Liberals that aiding Kurds may contribute to instability in Iraq

Lee Berthiaume writes for the Ottawa Citizen:

Federal officials warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau late last year that Canada may be contributing to long-term instability in Iraq by training and equipping Kurdish forces whose ultimate goal is to create an independent state. The Kurds’ top diplomat in North America says such fears are “unfounded,” as any move toward independence from Iraq will be peaceful. Yet, she also says the Kurds have no intention of giving up land they have “liberated” from ISIL, and which is claimed by Iraq’s central government in Baghdad.

Trudeau said this week that Canadian warplanes would stop bombing ISIL in Iraq and Syria by Feb. 22. Canada will instead concentrate on military training, diplomacy and aid. That includes tripling the number of troops training Kurdish forces in northern Iraq to 200, and giving the Kurds arms and other equipment.

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Iraq’s largest dam at ‘higher risk’ of failure: US

AFP reports :

Mosul Dam in northern Iraq, the country's largest, is at now at a "higher risk" of failure that could devastate areas to its south, according to a US assessment released by the Iraqi parliament. The dam was built on an unstable foundation that continuously erodes, and a lapse in maintenance after the Islamic State jihadist group briefly seized it in 2014 weakened the already flawed structure.

"All information gathered in the last year indicates Mosul Dam is at a signficantly higher risk of failure than originally understood," said the assessment from the US Army Corps of Engineers, cited in an Iraqi parliamentary report on Monday.

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Fears of dam collapse in Iraq spurs emergency plan by military

David Wroe writes for the Sydney Morning Herald:

The threat of a collapsing dam in Iraq that could send water flooding over millions of people has forced Australia's military to make emergency plans to protect soldiers and diplomats. The Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, told a Senate hearing on Wednesday that military planners were deeply worried about the state of the dam and had put "contingency plans" in place if it collapses. Mosul Dam in Iraq's north has been slowly deteriorating since the Islamic State terror group seized the area in 2014, killing or driving away the engineers who had long maintained the structure.

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Iraq’s troubled finances slow efforts to rebuild Ramadi

Reuters reports:

Strain on Iraq's budget from falling oil prices is delaying the removal of Islamic State explosives in Ramadi and the restoration of basic services needed for displaced civilians to return to the western city.

The army declared victory in December over Islamic State (IS) after elite counter-terrorism forces seized the Anbar provincial capital's main government building. On Tuesday those forces reclaimed strategic territory linking the city to a major army base nearby. The recapture of Ramadi was the first major gain for the U.S.-trained army since it collapsed in the face of an assault by the ultra-hardline Sunni militants in 2014. Its recovery boosted Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in his quest to oust IS from Mosul, northern Iraq's biggest city, later this year.

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Iraq’s Ramadi retaken, but rebuilding it a huge task

W.G. Dunlop reports for AFP:

Iraq has completely retaken Ramadi from the Islamic State group, but now faces the enormous challenges of removing bombs, reestablishing basic services and rebuilding the shattered city, officials said Tuesday. Government forces recaptured areas on the eastern outskirts of the Anbar provincial capital from IS after weeks of fighting, and authorities say that all areas immediately surrounding the city have been retaken. "All of Ramadi is now liberated" and responsibility for security is being handed over to local police, Anbar Governor Sohaib al-Rawi told journalists in Baghdad.

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In chaotic Iraq, ISIS is just one challenge among many

Alice Fordham reports for NPR:

Iraq's war against the Islamic State is gaining momentum. Intensified U.S. airstrikes and more than a year of U.S. training of Iraqi soldiers seem to be paying off. ISIS supply lines have been cut and its access to oil has been reduced. When Iraqi forces with coalition airstrikes retook the western city of Ramadi, it was the latest in a series of successes. But ISIS is just one of many groups trying to carve out power for itself in a country where the central government is looking ever weaker.

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Party squabbles have Iraqi PM by the coattails

Omar Sattar writes for Al Monitor:

A Cabinet shuffle that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is expected to make will be limited to the substitution of ministers with representatives from their own parliamentary bloc or other blocs having a higher number of seats. That is, it will not take into account demands by protesters geared toward reducing government waste, inefficiency and corruption and forming a technocratic Cabinet.

Abadi had announced a package of reforms in August, including dismissals of the prime minister’s deputies and vice presidents as well as 140 senior government officials and the elimination and merger of 10 ministries. In early 2016, Iraqi media had reported an imminent reduction in the number of Cabinet seats and high-profile Cabinet dismissals, but on Jan. 25, Abadi confirmed that a shuffle would be limited to ministerial changes and exclude the elimination or merger of ministries. Abadi's announcement angered the Iraqi street, particularly the Popular Movement, which had hoped that protests ongoing since last August — the most recent of which was held Jan. 29 in Baghdad — would result in holding corrupt officials accountable, abolishing unnecessary positions and forming a Cabinet of competent ministers without regard to sectarian quotas.

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Ground incursion into Syria, Iraq opens gates of hell: Hezbollah Brigades

Press TV reports:

The Hezbollah Brigades, a popular resistance group fighting Daesh militants in Iraq, has warned Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries against any ground incursion into Syria or Iraq, saying such a move would “open the gates of hell” to the potential aggressors. In a Sunday statement, the Special Operations of Hezbollah Brigades, also known as Kata'ib Hezbollah or Hezbollah Battalions, advised “the sons of Saud and those rulers who stand behind them not to take a risk and to learn (their) lesson.”

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The RAF blitz on ISIS has destroyed more than 585 targets across Iraq and Syria

Tom Sculthorpe writes for the Daily Mail:

The Royal Air Force has hit more than 585 targets after flying more than 2,000 combat missions against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, it was announced today. Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary, said RAF aircraft and drones had helped in securing military success in Ramadi, Iraq and near Al Hal and around the Tishrin Dam in Syria.

In the most recent strikes detailed by the Ministry of Defence, Tornado jets fired a Brimstone missile and dropped three Paveway bombs at Kisik Junction in northern Iraq.

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