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

Iraqi civilian deaths climb in 2011

Serena Chaudhry reports for Reuters:

The number of civilians killed in violence in Iraq rose slightly in 2011 from the previous year, as daily bombings and attacks continued to claim victims almost nine years after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, a study showed on Monday.

A total of 4,059 civilians were killed in violent incidents in Iraq in 2011, compared to 3,976 in 2010, rights group Iraq Body Count said in its annual study.

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Parliament speaker warns of security force abuses

The Associated Press reports:

Iraq's parliament speaker warned Monday that human rights violations are putting the country's fragile democracy at risk, the latest pronouncement in a rapidly developing sectarian spat that threatens to destabilize the country after U.S. troops pulled out.

The televised comments by Osama al-Nujaifi, one of the country's top Sunni officials, are the latest salvo in a growing political crisis sparked when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government issued an arrest warrant for the country's top Sunni politician last month.

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Iraqi Sunni Arabs leave mixed neighborhoods

Rebecca Santana reports for The Associated Press:

Ahmed al-Azami, a Sunni Muslim, has owned a house in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Shaab since 1999. But when Shiite residents recently began questioning why he, a Sunni, was living among them, he decided it was time to leave.

His story and similar tales by other Sunnis suggest Iraqis are again segregating themselves along sectarian lines, prompted by a political crisis pulling at the explosive Sunni-Shiite divide just weeks after the American withdrawal left Iraq to chart its own future.

The numbers so far are small and not easy to track with precision, but anecdotal accounts and a rise in business at real estate agencies in Sunni neighborhoods reveal a Sunni community contemplating the worse-case scenario and acting before it's too late.

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How Iraq can define its destiny

Ali A. Allawi writes in The New York Times:

The Arab successor states to the Ottoman Empire have all proved to be unstable, prone to violence and easy targets of foreign intervention and control. Left unchecked, Iraq will remain hostage to the turbulent region in which it finds itself — and to the price of oil.

This is Iraq’s legacy, but it need not be its destiny. Iraq must reimagine the Middle East, creating new economic, security and political structures that weave Middle Eastern countries closer together while peacefully accommodating the region’s ethnic and religious diversity.

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Maliki threatens to abandon power sharing

Tim Arango and Yasir Ghazi report for The New York Times:

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq threatened on Wednesday to abandon an American-backed power sharing government created a year ago, throwing the country’s fragile democracy into further turmoil just days after the departure of American troops.

In a nearly 90-minute news conference aired on tape-delay on state television, Mr. Maliki defied his rivals and pushed back on all fronts in Iraq’s burgeoning political crisis, threatening to release investigatory files that he claimed show his opponents have been involved in terrorism.

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Iraq extends MEK Ashraf deadline

The Associated Press reports:

Iraq's prime minister says he has granted a six-month extension on a deadline to close a camp that has housed Iranian exiles for decades in Iraq.

Nouri al-Maliki said on Wednesday that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked him to delay the Dec. 31 closure date of Camp Ashraf.

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Maliki tells Kurds to hand over Hashimi

The Associated Press reports:

Iraq's Shiite prime minister told Kurdish authorities Wednesday to hand over the Sunni vice president, who fled to the semiautonomous region to escape an arrest warrant on charges he ran hit squads targeting government officials.

The charges, leveled a day after the last American troops left Iraq, have opened up a new round of the Shiite-Sunni sectarian tensions that pushed the country to the brink of civil war just a few years ago.

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A bipartisan effort doomed U.S. venture in Iraq

Trudy Rubin writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer:

While Democrats and Republicans squabble in Congress, they do deserve bipartisan credit for one stunning achievement: the defeat of the United States in Iraq.

The willful blindness and strategic stupidity of the Bush administration led us into the Iraq War and the postwar disaster. The 2007 troop surge (and Gen. David Petraeus) created a slim hope that Iraq might yet become stable, but that hope was dashed by the mistakes of the Obama team.

Iraq today is a broken country, where sectarian strife is re-emerging and al-Qaida is seeking a comeback. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki acts like an autocrat and marginalizes Iraqi moderates. He also depends for his political survival on Tehran's blessing.

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Iraq’s Maliki summons parties, Sunnis rebuff

Suadad al-Salhy reports for Reuters:

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki summoned all Iraq's parties to talks in the coming days but was promptly rebuffed on Wednesday by the main Sunni bloc, as a sectarian crisis in his power-sharing coalition deepened.

Days after the final withdrawal of the U.S. forces which overthrew Saddam Hussein, Maliki's Shi'ite Muslim allies have sought to arrest the country's Sunni vice president on charges of terrorism and on Wednesday Maliki demanded that leaders of the autonomous Kurdish region hand over the wanted man.

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Hashimi denies allegations

Michael S. Schmidt reports for The New York Times:

The political crisis in Iraq deepened on Tuesday, as the Sunni vice president angrily rebutted charges that he had ordered his security guards to assassinate government officials, saying that Shiite-backed security forces had induced the guards into false confessions.

In a nationally televised news conference, the vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, blamed the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for using the country’s security forces to persecute political opponents, specifically Sunnis.

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