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

Kurdistan in border revenue scandal

Hevidar Ahmed reports for Rudaw:

Allegations that revenue from Ibrahim Khalil, the lucrative border crossing between Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey, was funneled to a Kurdish leader instead of the government has set off a firestorm in the region.

In an interview with the Kurdish satellite channel Naliya last month, Sayid Akram, former director of the Ibrahim Khalil security department from 2000-2006, claimed that none of the customs revenue was given to the treasury of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) but was instead taken to the office of the then-regional Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. Barzani is currently the deputy of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and is considered the favorite to become the region’s prime minister next year.

The Ibrahim Khalil trade center filed a lawsuit against Akram after the allegations were made, and Akram was sent to prison in the border town of Zakho. He was released after activists campaigned for his freedom.

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Kirkuk in the wake of the US withdrawal

Joost R. Hiltermann writes in The National Interest:

The ethnic fault line that bisects northern Iraq, imperfectly dividing Arabs and Kurds, might as well have been geological: the temblors it occasionally produces are as destructive as anything measured on the Richter scale. Yet, since 2003 at least, things have been surprisingly quiet along this line, even if the local population is frequently roused by disquieting rumblings.

In another month, however, U.S. troops will have fully withdrawn from Iraq. Soldiers embedded with the joint patrols and checkpoints have already pulled out. The only U.S. remnant in the north will be a Kirkuk consulate staffed by diplomats and a small number of military officers operating under the Baghdad Embassy’s Office for Security Cooperation. They will continue to be part of the Joint Coordination Center in Kirkuk, which monitors the Arab-Kurdish peacekeeping effort. Whether this sharp reduction in military personnel will trigger an outbreak of violence is the question all Kirkukis, and their friends abroad, now ask themselves.

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US troop return possible

Carol E. Lee reports for The Wall Street Journal:

U.S. and Iraqi leaders signaled Wednesday that the two governments are working toward an agreement to return some American forces to Iraq after completion of next month's troop withdrawal to help train Iraqi units and maintain security gains.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said there is "no doubt the U.S. forces have a role in providing training of Iraqi forces." Vice President Joe Biden, who arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday night to meet with Iraqi leaders and salute American troops as the war winds to a formal close, said the U.S. will provide security assistance to the Iraqis at Baghdad's request.

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US soldiers assess Iraq on way out

Scott Peterson reports for The Christian Science Monitor:

From its first "shock and awe" moments in March 2003, the American invasion of Iraq was about shaping perceptions. The bombing of Baghdad, live on TV, was meant to be so overwhelming that Saddam Hussein's regime would crumble – and along with it, the resolve of America's enemies from Al Qaeda on down.

Nearly nine years later, as American forces fully withdraw by Dec. 31, the US military is eager to do what it can to shape the legacy of a war that has witnessed the worst violence in the Middle East in recent decades, bitterly divided Americans over its cost in blood and treasure, and has now almost become a distraction or forgotten by the public at large.

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Green Zone ‘mortar’ actually car bomb

Sahar Issa reports for McClatchy Newspapers:

An explosion Monday in Baghdad's Green Zone that Iraqi officials at first attributed to a rocket that had landed in a parking lot was in fact a suicide car bomb that detonated at the entrance to the parliament building and killed five people, officials revealed Tuesday.

The admission that a suicide car bomber had penetrated the fortified Green Zone, the first suicide attack there since April 2007, sent a wave of concern across the capital about the abilities, and loyalties, of Iraq's security agencies.

The attack targeted the speaker of parliament, Osama al-Nujaifi, according to al-Nujaifi's spokesman. The speaker was uninjured.

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Emerson makes Zubair contracts bid

Hassan Hafidh reports for Dow Jones Newswires:

U.S.-based energy firm Emerson has submitted a bid to win an automated systems contract at Iraq's giant Zubair oil field, a company executive said.

Emerson, a specialist in oil and gas, refining and power automation, submitted the bid to a consortium led by Italy's Eni SpA (E) which is the operator of Zubair oil field, which holds some 8 billion barrels of oil reserves.

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Biden visit to set post-war relations

Mark Landler reports for The New York Times:

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. arrived here on Tuesday for a visit meant to inaugurate a new relationship between the United States and Iraq, just weeks before the last American troops are scheduled to leave the country.

Landing after nightfall in a military transport plane, a mode of arrival that American officials hope will soon seem like a relic of a distant era, Mr. Biden came with an agenda that included new areas of cooperation in trade and diplomacy, as well as traditional security concerns.

Mr. Biden’s unannounced trip to Iraq is laden with symbolism — a farewell to arms, but also a call for two countries linked by bloodshed to begin dealing with each other in the normal language of diplomacy.

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Baghdad ranked last for city living standards

Peter Woodifield reports for Bloomberg:

Vienna has the best quality of life among more than 220 cities around the world, according to a report published by Mercer. Baghdad has the worst as well as being the most dangerous place to live.

European cities dominate the rankings, with only two cities outside Europe, Auckland and Vancouver, in the top 10, said Mercer, the consulting unit of Marsh & McLennan Cos. (MMC) European cities, headed by Luxembourg, also take the top seven places for personal safety.

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Iraqi Museum reopens

Scott Peterson reports for The Christian Science Monitor:

With a snip of red ribbon, a new exhibit opened Nov. 17 at the Iraqi Museum, providing one more sign that Iraq is leaving behind the worst horrors of war and creating a new normal.

"You know what we have been through, and it was very dangerous," says Shaimaa, an archaeologist who has worked at the museum since 1999. "So many things are happening that convince us things are changing for the better."

Among them is the reemergence of her beloved museum, after being devastated by looting early in the war.

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Biden in surprise Iraq trip

Rebecca Santana reports for The Associated Press:

Vice President Joe Biden arrived on a surprise visit to Iraq late Tuesday in a trip designed to chart a new relationship between the two countries after all American forces have left the country in just over a month.

After nearly nine years of war, the U.S. now must navigate a future without American troops in Iraq. But Iraq's vast oil resources, the massive U.S. Embassy presence here and Iraq's strategic location in the Middle East — next to Iran — ensure American interest will remain high in Iraq even after the troops are gone.

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