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

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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Shia holy day marked by attacks

Duraid Adnan reports for The New York Times:

Bomb blasts ripped into throngs of religious pilgrims on Monday as they streamed through Iraq’s streets to honor one of the most sacred holidays of Shiite Islam, in what has become almost an annual spilling of blood and stirring of sectarian anger.

At least 20 people — many of them women and children — were killed in three bomb blasts about 50 miles south of Baghdad, security officials and hospital officials said. Dozens more were injured.

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U.S. companies have Iraq safety concerns

Jane Arraf reports for Al Jazeera English:

US Vice President Joe Biden is in Iraq to rebuild relations between the two countries as the last of the remaining US soldiers prepare to leave the country.

The 13,000 US troops in Iraq are due to leave by the end of the year, bringing to a close an almost nine-year-old war.

But US companies looking to invest in the country are not convinced that Iraq is safe.

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Tariq Aziz execution in 2012

CNN reports:

Tariq Aziz, who served as Iraq's top diplomat under Saddam Hussein, will be executed next year, after U.S. forces have pulled out of the country, an adviser to Iraq's prime minister told CNN on Monday.

"It will definitely take place, and it will take place after the Americans leave Iraq," said the adviser, Saad Yousif al-Muttalibi, about Aziz, who served as foreign minister.

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Jordan wants Iraq trade alternative to Syria

Jamal Halaby reports for The Associated Press:

Jordan has asked Iraq to allow it to export goods bound for Turkey and Europe via Iraqi territory if Syria seals off its border, a trade official said Tuesday.

Jordan exports about 5,000 tons of mainly fruit and vegetables worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each day through Syria. The goods are shipped onward to Turkey overland or to Europe via Syria's Mediterranean coast.

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