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

Iraq seeks to send more students to US

Aamer Madhani reports for USA Today:

The Iraqi government wants the USA to mold its best and brightest.

Following Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's pledge last year to fund scholarships for 10,000 Iraqi students to study in the United States, the Iraqi government has dispatched several top officials to Washington as part of an effort to raise interest in their country's students.

"No country can get out of the suffering and backwardness without the development of higher education," said Ali al-Adeeb, Iraq's minister of higher education, who met Tuesday with State Department officials.

Adeeb and several of his top deputies will continue their pitch during a two-day conference with administrators and scholars from 50 universities — including New York University and University of Pennsylvania — that begins today.

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Iraqi tribes in bind over Syria arms

Sam Dagher reports for the Wall Street Journal:

Many Iraqis in the tribal region that runs through this border town share family ties, tribal bonds and sympathies with opposition fighters just over the border in Syria. But their leaders worry that an expanding cross-border arms trade here is re-energizing a radical group they say they have only just brought under relative control—al Qaeda in Iraq.

Weapons and ammunition are already flowing in small quantities from this Sunni majority area to Syrian fighters who are arming up against President Bashar al-Assad, according to local officials and tribesmen.

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Saudis pick first envoy to Baghdad in 20 years

Jack Healy reports for the New York Times:

Moving to repair a long-fractured diplomatic relationship, Saudi Arabia has named its first ambassador to Iraq in more than two decades, Iraq’s foreign minister announced Tuesday.

The Saudis did not, however, say they were reopening an embassy in Baghdad. Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s foreign minister, said in a Twitter posting that the Saudi ambassador to Jordan would serve as the new “nonresident” Iraqi envoy. He is Fahd al-Zaid.

Still, the Saudi move restores normal diplomatic relations between the oil-rich neighbors for the first time since Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. It may also signal Saudi Arabia’s desire for a stronger presence in Iraq to buttress against the influence of Iran, a longtime nemesis of the Saudi kingdom.

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Iraq central bank bullish on GDP

Aseel Kami reports for Reuters:

Iraq's gross domestic product is expected to grow by an average rate of at least 9.4 percent annually between 2012 and 2016 as the oil-producing country benefits from larger windfalls in oil revenues, a senior central bank official said on Sunday.

Iraq, which has the fourth-biggest oil reserves in the world, is currently producing around 2.9 million barrels per day (bpd). Iraq's oil minister said last year he expected production to reach between 8-8.5 million bpd by 2017.

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Iraq offers investors high risk-reward bet

Una Galani reports for Reuters:

Are you a global investor looking for an ultra-high risk-reward option? Consider Iraq. The perils are well known – possible civil war at the top of the list – but the Baghdad main index is still up 32 percent over two years, outperforming its Middle East rivals. This year has started less well – drops are hardly a surprise for a fractious country in a volatile region – but this frontier market has many of the ingredients of success.

The two-year performance is remarkable, well above the 6 percent gain for the FTSE All World Middle East and Africa index. Within the region, only very peaceful Qatar has come close, returning 28 percent. Saudi Arabia’s index has risen 11 percent. Investors in Egypt, Kuwait, and the UAE lost money. And unlike some peers, Iraq’s bourse welcomes foreign investors and there are no capital controls.

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350 Anfal victims to be reburied

Fryad Mohammed reports for AKnews:

The remains of 350 Kurdish victims of Anfal who were buried in Diwaniyah mass graves will be transferred tomorrow from Bagdad Forensic Institute and reburied in a new cemetery in Chamchamal.

The victims were buried alive in three mass graves in the Mahar district of Shanafiya, said the media secretary of the Kurdistan Ministry of Anfal and Martyrs Fuad Othman.

The remains of 180 Kurdish victims will also be transferred to Erbil and reburied in Chamchamal after the Baghdad institute takes the necessary samples.

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Hashemi’s trial date set

Raman Brusk reports for AKnews:

The Independent Supreme Judiciary Council of Iraq has set May 3 for the first trail session of Iraqi Vice President Tareq Hashemi, who is accused of terrorism charges.

Council spokesman Abdul-Sattar Beiraqdar said the Central Criminal Court will investigate the case of Hashemi and his secretary and son-in-law Ahmed Qahtan.

It will be a public trial and will be held in the absence of Hashemi and Qahtan if need be.

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Green Zone empties out under Iraqi control

Dan Morse reports for the Washington Post:

Green Zone. International Zone. The Bubble. To the foreigners still living there, the Iraqi capital’s fortified center has a new name: Ghost Town.

The Iraqi government has taken full control of the former heart of the American occupation. It decides who gets past the 17-foot-tall concrete blast walls encircling the zone.

On the inside, Iraqi police and military forces have raided the offices of private security companies, prompting the firms and commercial companies that rely on them to relocate.

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Iraq VP Hashemi reasserts innocence

Lara Jakes and Yahya Barzanji report for the Associated Press:

Iraq's Sunni vice president on Monday asked for popular support to fight government charges that he commandeered death squads and said he would continue to defy arrest with the help of the nation's powerful Kurds in a showdown that tests the limits of Baghdad's reach.

The government's case against Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi deepens tensions in a country still splintered by Sunni and Shiite sectarian rivalries. It now also threatens to draw a new wedge between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, and Kurdish leaders in Iraq's north who refuse to hand over al-Hashemi for trial.

In a half-hour speech from the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq's north, al-Hashemi described the charges against him as "politically motivated" and said he would not return to Baghdad.

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Efforts underway to restore Babylon

Jane Arraf reports for Al Jazeera:

The whims of a dictator, war, and salt water erosion have all contributed to the deterioration of one of the wonders of the ancient world in Iraq.

Babylon, built about 3,879 years ago, suffered under the weight of Saddam Hussein's 1980s emulation of King Nebuchadnezzar, building his own palace on top of Babylon's north palace. The weight of modern stones, concrete, and erosion caused by new salt water canals near the ancient palace have caused great damage to the site.

The structural and environmental impact of Saddam's palace coupled with poor attempts at restoration twice kept Babylon from being recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site.

During the US occupation, the ancient city was home to US and Polish troops whose trucks and helicopters further damaged the one-time centre of astronomy, science, and culture.

Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf reports from Baghdad on efforts to restore this wonder of the ancient world.

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