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

Leaving Iraq, U.S. fears new surge of Qaeda terror

Michael S. Schmidt and Eric Schmitt report for the New York Times:

As the United States prepares to withdraw its troops from Iraq by year’s end, senior American and Iraqi officials are expressing growing concern that Al Qaeda’s offshoot here, which just a few years ago waged a debilitating insurgency that plunged the country into a civil war, is poised for a deadly resurgence.

Qaeda allies in North Africa, Somalia and Yemen are seeking to assert more influence after the death of Osama bin Laden and the diminished role of Al Qaeda’s remaining top leadership in Pakistan. For its part, Al Qaeda in Iraq is striving to rebound from major defeats inflicted by Iraqi tribal groups and American troops in 2007, as well as the deaths of its two leaders in 2010.

Although the organization is certainly weaker than it was at its peak five years ago and is unlikely to regain its prior strength, American and Iraqi analysts said the Qaeda franchise is shifting its tactics and strategies — like attacking Iraqi security forces in small squads — to exploit gaps left by the departing American troops and to try to reignite sectarian violence in the country.

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Top U.S. negotiator: “Not an end, but a beginning in Iraq”

entire story:

Brett McGurk, a top Iraq negotiator for both the Bush and Obama administrations, writes in the Washington Post:

When President Obama declared an end to the Iraq war, he also looked forward to “a new phase in relations between Iraq and the United States.” If we play our cards right, this new phase may prove more important than the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Critics charge that the withdrawal is a defeat for the United State and a victory for Iran, and leaves Iraq vulnerable to a rekindled civil war. They could not be more wrong.

...

To be sure, Iran retains great influence in Baghdad. But so do we. Over the course of our talks this summer, the Iraqi government quietly dismantled Iranian-backed militia groups in Maysan province, on the Iranian border. It sent messages to Tehran that any attack on U.S. forces would be considered an attack on the Iraqi state. It completed the purchase of 18 F-16s, becoming the world’s ninth-largest purchaser of U.S. military equipment — and the fourth-largest in the region behind Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. These are the building blocks of a real defense partnership, and they do not require the basing of U.S. troops.

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Turkey seeks KRG’s help against rebels

The Associated Press reports:

Turkish leaders on Friday pressed the president of Iraq's Kurdish enclave to crack down on the Kurdish rebels launching cross-border attacks from their Iraqi mountain sanctuaries.

President Abdullah Gul met Massoud Barzani, the president of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, in Istanbul. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu already urged Barzani late Thursday to assist Turkey's fight against the guerrillas.

It was the first direct talks in 1 1/2 years between Turkish leaders and Barzani, which followed last month's Turkish military incursion into northern Iraq in response to the Oct. 19 killing of 24 soldiers by the rebels.

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Oregon man prepares to pilot lawn chair over Baghdad

Kim Murphy report for the Los Angeles Times:

Some men see lawn chairs in the sky and ask, "Why?" Some, though, imagine attaching the chairs to hundreds of balloons, strapping themselves in the seat, donning oxygen masks and flying straight over Baghdad.

Kent Couch, who runs a gas station in Bend, Ore., is such a man. Couch boarded a flight to the Middle East on Thursday, setting out on an adventure that involves becoming the first lawn chair balloonist to traverse the now-more-or-less peaceful skies over Iraq -- and raise money for Iraqi children.

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Maliki heading to U.S. in Dec.

CNN reports:

Iraq's prime minister will visit the White House next month, just a couple of weeks before American service members are scheduled to depart from the country.

President Barack Obama will welcome Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on December 12, the White House said Friday.

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Most US troops out of Iraq by mid-December

AFP reports:

The "vast majority" of remaining US troops in Iraq will be out by mid-December as the American military's withdrawal picks up pace, a US general said Thursday.

Less than 34,000 troops remain in Iraq after reaching a peak of 170,000 in 2007 during a buildup ordered by former president George W. Bush, said Major General Thomas Spoehr, deputy commanding general for the US force in Iraq.

"As I look at the plan, I think it's clear to me that by the time we get to about mid-December or so, the vast majority of the US forces in Iraq -- we plan to have them withdrawn from Iraq by that time," he said via video link from Baghdad.

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Four killed after bombs target Iraq Sunni militia

Kareem Raheem report for Reuters:

Four bombs exploded near the home of a local leader of a government-supported Sunni militia north of Iraq's capital on Saturday, killing four people and wounding eight others, police and health sources said.

The attack follows a major assault on Thursday on the Sahwa militia, which helped turn the tide of the war by taking up arms against al Qaeda. Six people were killed and dozens wounded when bombs exploded near a group of fighters as they lined up to receive their pay in the city of Baquba.

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Bahrain releases teenage Iraqi football player

Associated Press reports:

Bahrain has released a teenage Iraqi football player detained for seven months in Bahrain on suspicion of participating in anti-government protests.

Abdulameer Naji told The Associated Press that his son Zulfiqar Naji, now 17, was released Saturday as a goodwill gesture from the Bahraini government to mark a key Muslim holiday.

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Iraqi Parliament’s attendance data are bogus

Reidar Visser reports:

On paper it looks all fine. A record of Iraq’s parliamentary attendance figures is regularly published, along with the names of deputies who are absent from parliamentary sessions. ...

There is only one problem: The numbers are false. A systematic correlation of parliamentary records and attendance information linked to individuals shows that only a fraction of those absent are actually accounted for in the official record. Here is a quick rundown of gross attendance figures and the numbers of absentees actually identified by name for the past months.

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US brigade in Iraq heading to Kuwait

Lolita C. Baldor report for Associated Press:

While all but a small number of U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by the end of the year, not all of them will be heading home for the holidays as President Barack Obama promised last month.

The Pentagon tentatively plans to move at least 4,000 soldiers from Iraq to Kuwait at the end of the year, pending a final decision expected soon by Pentagon and Kuwaiti leaders, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

The move is part of a still-developing Pentagon strategy that ends the Iraq war but positions a strong U.S. force just across the border in Kuwait and across the region to reinforce the United States' commitment to the Middle East and prevent a power vacuum when the tens of thousands of U.S. forces who have served in Iraq are gone.

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