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

A time to act

The Economist reports :

OVERCOMING his deep wariness of overseas entanglements, President Barack Obama has authorised American generals to launch air strikes in Iraq against the fanatical jihadists of the Islamic State (IS). The first strike was carried out on August 8th within 12 hours of the president’s announcement, and involved the bombing of a mobile IS artillery piece near Erbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in the country’s north.

Seeking to reassure a war-weary public, the president described two tightly defined missions that would trigger air attacks. First, the president told his public in a late-night address from the White House, warplanes would strike convoys of IS fighters if they threaten either American diplomats and troops stationed in Erbil or Baghdad.

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Obama’s campaign rivals resurface on Iraq

Jill Lawrence writes for Al Jazeera America:

President Barack Obama can’t seem to catch a break from the people he defeated on the way to the White House. First came Sen. John McCain, who accused him — not for the first time — of having no understanding of what he’s up against in the Middle East. Now comes former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, suddenly sharpening her differences with Obama over Syria and his wary stance on intervention in general.

The president’s former rivals are picking on him even though he has taken quick, decisive and reasoned action in a foreign policy crisis. He has ordered airstrikes and humanitarian aid and is arming our Kurdish allies. He has said he will not let the Islamic State (IS) “create some caliphate through Syria and Iraq.” What McCain seems to want — and what Obama hasn’t offered — is a vow to annihilate the brutal jihadist group, which Obama describes as “barbaric terrorists.”

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Oil and Erbil

Steve Coll writes for the New Yorker:

To the defense of Erbil: this was the main cause that drew President Obama back to combat in Iraq last week, two and a half years after he fulfilled a campaign pledge and pulled the last troops out.

After Mazar-i-Sharif, Nasiriyah, Kandahar, Mosul, Benghazi, and a score of other sites of American military intervention—cities whose names would have stumped most American “Jeopardy!” contestants before 2001—we come now to Erbil. One can forgive the isolationist: Where?

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For 2 U.S. presidents, Iraqi leader proved a source of frustration

Peter Baker writes for the New York Times:

One day in the fall of 2007, President George W. Bush joined Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki in a video conference to sign a “declaration of principles” on the future of the Iraqi-American relations. As Mr. Bush scrawled his name, Mr. Maliki in Baghdad just passed his pen over his copy, pretending to sign.

At the last minute, Mr. Maliki had decided not to sign because he said he had not read the document’s final wording, but he did not mention this to Mr. Bush, who had no idea his counterpart’s pen had not actually touched paper. An American official in the room noticed, however, and as soon as Mr. Bush’s image vanished from the screen, accosted a Maliki aide, saying, “Don’t screw with the president of the United States.”

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Kurdish forces battle ISIS, blast kills 47 in Baghdad

Al Arabiya reports :

Kurdish forces launched on Wednesday an offensive against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants near the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil in north Iraq, a senior Kurdish official told Reuters, as the Iraqi army claimed it had killed scores of the militants in the northern city of Mosul. The violence in the north was mirrored in the capital Baghdad where a string of car bombs killed almost two dozen people and wounded scores more.

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It’s time for a base in Kurdistan

Michael Rubin writes for Commentary :

Max Boot is absolutely right that the West cannot afford to dither while the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, or Daash) expands its territory through north-central Iraq. Should the group seize the Mosul Dam, as was prematurely reported earlier this week, it could put millions at risk. And recent Islamic State victories show not that their fighters are that good, but rather than the reputation of both the Iraqi army and the Kurdish peshmerga was and is much too inflated.

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Kurds, Islamic State clash near regional capital

Ahmed Rasheed and Isra' al Rubei'i report for Reuters:

Kurdish forces attacked Islamic State fighters near the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil in northern Iraq on Wednesday in a change of tactics supported by the Iraqi central government to try to break the Islamists' momentum.

The attack 40 km (25 miles) southwest of Arbil came after the Sunni militants inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Kurds on Sunday with a rapid advance through three towns, prompting Iraq's prime minister to order his air force for the first time to back the Kurdish forces.

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A friend flees the horror of ISIS

George Packer writes for the New Yorker:

A humanitarian crisis that could turn into a genocide is taking place right now in the mountains of northwestern Iraq. It hasn’t made the front page, because the place and the people are obscure, and there’s a lot of other horrible news to compete with. I’ve learned about it mainly because the crisis has upended the life of someone I wrote about in the magazine several weeks ago.

Last Sunday, Karim woke up around 7:30 A.M., after coming home late the night before. He was about to have breakfast when his phone rang—a friend was calling to see how he was doing. Karim is a Yazidi, a member of an ancient religious minority in Iraq. Ethnically, he’s Kurdish. An engineer and a father of three young children, Karim spent years working for the U.S. Army in his area, then for an American medical charity. He’s been waiting for months to find out whether the U.S. government will grant him a Special Immigrant Visa because of his service, and because of the danger he currently faces.

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Why oppose an independent Kurdistan?

William A. Galstone writes in the Wall Street Journal:

The Obama administration continues to insist on maintaining the unity of Iraq. Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Sunni extremists of ISIS are on the march. On Sunday, ISIS seized three towns in northwest Iraq from the Kurds and threatened to overrun the Mosul Dam, a key source of electricity and water for much of the country. At the same time, ISIS forces crossed the border from Syria into Lebanon, taking control of the city of Arsal, blindsiding officials in Beirut. The three-year revolt against Bashar Assad in Syria has morphed into a regional crisis with sectarian conflict at its core. The political structure of Iraq has exacerbated that crisis.

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Podesta plays matchmaker for estranged US, Iraq

Julian Pecquet writes for Al Monitor:

The United States and Iraq both hoped they’d be seeing a lot less of each other when the last American troops left the country in 2011. Instead, they find themselves in intensive couples counseling as they try to save a failing marriage of convenience that could hold the key to defeating the biggest terrorist threat since al-Qaeda.

With Sunni militants threatening to tear the country apart, Baghdad turned to Democratic super-lobbyist Tony Podesta early last year to encourage the US government to get back in the fight. It has been a tough sell for the administration of President Barack Obama, who had boasted of pulling the United States out of Iraq, but rapid gains by the Islamic State group (IS) over the past few weeks have forced a re-evaluation.



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