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

Air defense gap before F-16s

Nathan Hodge reports for The Wall Street Journal:

The White House is pointing to a proposed sale of F-16 fighter jets to Iraq as a sign of a deepening security partnership, though delivery of the aircraft is a few years away, and Iraq's fighter pilots are still learning to fly.

That means Iraq will be left with a gap in its defenses after the departure this month of the last U.S. forces stationed in the nation.

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Iraq museum pays smugglers

Arwa Damon reports for CNN:

Iraq's second largest museum in Sulaimaniya is recovering stolen artifacts by paying smugglers to return the treasures.

Located in the semi-autonomous northern region of Kurdistan, the Slemani Museum has taken drastic measures to refill display cabinets following looting.

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Maliki’s moves raise concerns

Jack Healy, Tim Arango and Michael S. Schmidt report for The New York Times:

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has moved swiftly to consolidate power in advance of the American military withdrawal, offering a glimpse of how Iraq’s post-American identity may take shape, by rounding up hundreds of former Baath Party members and evicting Western companies from the heavily fortified Green Zone.

The actions also underscored the many lingering questions about America’s uncertain ally, a prime minister who once found refuge in Syria and Iran and who will now help write the epitaph to the American invasion.

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U.S.-Iraq relationship unclear

Laura Meckler reports for The Wall Street Journal:

President Barack Obama and Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki began the work of defining a postwar relationship, meeting here Monday and pledging to cooperate on a range of military and civilian initiatives.

But as the final U.S. troops prepare to exit Iraq after a nine-year conflict, the full contours of the new U.S.-Iraq partnership aren't yet clear, either in the extent of future military cooperation or on other foreign policy questions in the region.

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Gulf Keystone’s new Shaikan results

Ian Lyall reports for Proactive Investors:

Gulf Keystone Petroleum chief operating officer John Gerstenlauer has described as “very promising” initial results from the company’s fourth well on the Shaikan field in Kurdistan.

Having been drilled to a total depth of 3,387 metres it has uncovered what potentially are two new, reservoirs in the Sargelu sands and Barsarin carbonates.

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Iranian cleric to challenge Sistani

Scott Peterson reports for The Christian Science Monitor:

As American forces complete their withdrawal from Iraq in coming days, concern has grown in Washington that neighboring Iran is determined to fill any "vacuum" with its own influence.

Iraqi officials have long dismissed that scenario as overblown. But an attempt by Tehran to install a top-ranking cleric in one of Iraq's holiest cities – thereby exercising far greater influence over Iraq's religious and political life – has prompted warnings of an "Iran project" to boldly increase leverage with its neighbor.

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Oil power struggle as U.S. leaves Iraq

Arwa Damon reports for CNN:

For Todd Kozel, CEO of the independent oil and gas exploration and production company Gulf Keystone, it was an irresistible lure at the time few were daring to invest in Kurdistan.

But not all is well in Kurdistan and old arguments with Baghdad over oil power and revenue are likely to loom large as U.S. forces withdraw from the country.

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Blackwater changes name again

MSNBC reports:

A security firm that changed its name after civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan on Monday announced yet another name change. Xe Services, which until March 2009 had been Blackwater, is now Academi -- a name chosen, the firm says, to reflect Plato's institution for developing warriors and thinkers.

"We have had a year of extraordinary changes that have resulted in a new, better company," President and CEO Ted Wright said in a statement posted on the company's website.

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Video: Pres. Obama and PM Maliki

C-Span presents the live press conference:

President Obama hosted Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at the White House. In addition to private consultations, they held a joint news conference.

There are three weeks to go before the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq.

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Top UN official issues post-US warning

According to a UN Security Council statement:

The withdrawal of United States forces in Iraq by the end of the year would be an important milestone that entailed many challenges even as it provided all Iraqis the opportunity to prove to themselves that they could build a peaceful and better future and give the country’s political and elected officials the chance to consolidate democratic and economic gains, the Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) told the Security Council this morning.

He noted that, while the Iraqi Security Forces had assumed full control of the country’s security, they continued to face armed opposition and terrorist groups, who carried out mass casualty attacks that affected the lives of hundreds of citizens across the country. They also posed significant challenges to the delivery of United Nations assistance on the ground. He condemned, in the strongest possible terms, yesterday’s terrorist attack on Ashura pilgrims, and stressed that Iraq’s religious and ethnic diversity was its ultimate strength and formed the heart of its effort to establish a prosperous and all-inclusive society.

He listed wealth distribution and power-sharing, delivery and access to basic services, strained community relations, and unresolved issues between Iraq and Kuwait among them. UNAMI and the United Nations country team stood ready to work with the Government and to redouble its efforts to solidify democracy, political stability and prosperity as the United States forces withdrew.

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