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

Washington: ISIS diminishes in Syria and Iraq and becomes stronger in Libya

Asharq Al-Awsat reports:

The Libyan situation topped the agenda at the meeting of EU defence and foreign ministers in Amsterdam while the EU and NATO expressed their willingness to make greater efforts to support the government of national accord led by Faiz Al-Siraj.

The German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said that Libya has now become a stronghold for ISIS militants and a fertile ground for their operations. She added that “Their presence in Sirte, which is about 450 kilometers east of Tripoli, is increasing more and more”. Libya has become a stronghold for ISIS and this coincides with the US Department of Defense’s estimates that the number of militants has doubled as a result of the chaos in Libya to nearly 5,000 individuals. However, the number of militants in Syria and Iraq has diminished to between 19,000 and 25,000 people at present.

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Turkish military launches large air campaign on PKK targets in northern Iraq

Hurriyet Daily News reports:

The Turkish military has launched a wide-scale air campaign on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq. The operation which started on Feb. 3 continued on Feb. 4, military sources have told Hürriyet. Unmanned areal vehicles, fuel feed planes and AWACS surveillance jets accompanied Turkish Air Force F-4E and F-16 jets during strikes on the PKK targets in the neighboring country, the sources said.

Some 40 jets that took of for bases in Diyarbakır, Malatya, Bandırma, Ankara-Akıncı and Merzifon his some 100 targets on the Kandil Mountain, known as ground for the PKK headquarters, on Feb. 3 before they bombed four other points else than Kandil the next day, they said.

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14 Filipinos among dead in Iraq hotel fire

PhilStar reports:

A fire that broke out in a hotel in Irbil, capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq killed 17 people, 14 of which were Filipinos, according to embassy official. “We will be taking the earliest flight tomorrow to allow us to coordinate closely with authorities of the Kurdistan Regional Government in identifying and repatriating the remains of our kababayans,” said embassy charge d'affaires Elmer Cato. “We would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the families of the victims and will do everything we can to bring them home as soon as possible,” he added. Nawzad Hadi, the governor of Irbil, said the fire broke out in the sauna of the Hotel Capitol at 4 p.m. on Friday.

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Canada to boost troops in anti-ISIS mission, keep some planes: source

Reuters reports:

Canada, under pressure to stay involved in the U.S-led mission against Islamic State, will boost the number of troops on training duty in Iraq while keeping reconnaissance and refueling planes in the region, a defense source said on Friday. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won an election last October promising to pull out six jets that have been bombing targets in Iraq and Syria. Trudeau has made clear he will stick to that commitment, despite unhappiness with the decision among allies. Trudeau is due to unveil the revamped mission next week, according to a government source with direct knowledge of the file.

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British SAS troops injured fighting Isis near Mosul in Iraq

Will Worley writes for the Independent:

Three British special forces operatives have been injured in a firefight with Isis militants in Iraq. The engagement took place during a covert reconnaissance operation near Isis-held Mosul, in the north of the country. The soldiers, believed to be from the Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) regiments, suffered bullet and fragmentation injuries, the Mirror said.

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Fire at Erbil massage center leaves 19 dead, all foreign nationals

Rudaw reports :

At least 19 people have died and several others wounded in a fire incident that broke out at a massage center in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region. Governor of Erbil Nawzad Hadi told Rudaw at the scene of the fire that 15 of the victims were Filipino nationals. "14 of them were women and 1 man," he said. "The other four were Arabs. Three from Iraq's Salahaddin province and one Palestinian." Head of the Erbil health department said that most of the victims lost their lives from suffocation and less from burning. According to city officials the fire started in the basement of Hotel Capitol on Gulan Street which later spread to the massage center.

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Iranian UAV shown striking targets in Syria and Iraq

Gareth Jennings and Neil Gibson write for IHS Jane's:

Iran appears to have conducted strike missions over Syria and Iraq using its Shahed-129 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), according to footage released by national media on 2 February.

A news report filed by media channel SimaNews shows at least two armed Shahed-129 UAVs being demonstrated at an undisclosed airfield, presumably in Iran, as well as electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) imagery taken from the UAV's weapon systems purportedly showing them striking vehicles and other targets in Syria and on Iran's 'western borders'. At least some of the strike footage is from October 2015, as shown by a date stamp on the weapon system EO/IR imagery, while latitude and longitude co-ordinates also shown correspond to Aleppo province, Syria.

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Isis in Iraq: The Kurds have fought off the jihadists, but fear they will be used as cannon fodder and then discarded

Patrick Cockburn writes for the Independent:

One of the most fought over territories on earth, Iraqi Kurdistan had suffered at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons long before the appearance of the murderous Isis. Its cities are now dotted with half-completed hotels and apartments – economic prosperity is a fantasy. The perceived incompetence and greed of Kurdish leaders tarnishes their success against Isis. And bitter experience makes the Kurds suspicious that they will be used as cannon fodder and then discarded.

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The US destruction of Iraq: we should never forget

William Blum writes for the Foreign Policy Journal:

he modern, educated, advanced nation of Iraq was reduced to a virtual failed state … the United States, beginning in 1991, bombed for much of the following 12 years, with one dubious excuse after another; then, in 2003, invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, tortured without inhibition, killed wantonly … the people of that unhappy land lost everything—their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women’s rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives… More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile.

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Iraq’s top Shiite cleric suspends weekly sermons

Reuters reports:

Iraq’s top Shiite cleric said on Friday he would no longer deliver regular weekly sermons about political affairs, which for years have been a source of guidance for Iraqi politicians and his millions of followers. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani did not give a reason for suspending the sermons, which have lately focused on the government’s battle against ISIS militants and anti-corruption efforts.

“It has been decided not to continue this on a weekly basis at the present time, but only as demanded by events,” Sistani’s aide Ahmed al-Safi, who delivered the message, said in a televised speech from the southern shrine city of Kerbala before reciting a prayer.

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