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Tishwash: To complete the oil agreement, a Lebanese delegation arrives in Baghdad

Today, Friday, a Lebanese delegation headed by Major General Abbas Ibrahim arrived in the capital, Baghdad; To complete the final touches with Iraqi officials in the agreement to export oil to Lebanon.

An informed source said, “The Director General of Lebanese Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, along with the Lebanese Minister of Oil, have arrived in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.”

He added, “The visit comes to sign the oil agreement with Iraq,” noting that “after signing the agreement, the quantities of oil will go to one of the Arab countries to match the fuel and energy stations in Lebanon.”    link

Tishwash:  After a noticeable rise, oil is in the red zone

Oil prices fell on Friday, but crude is on track to end the week unchanged after rebounding from a sharp drop last Monday, supported by expectations that supply will remain tight as demand recovers.
Brent crude fell 0.2 percent to $ 73.68 a barrel, by 08:10 GMT, after jumping 2.2 percent on Thursday.

Meanwhile, US West Texas Intermediate crude fell 0.3 percent to $71.73 a barrel, after rising 2.3 percent yesterday.

On a weekly basis, Brent crude is heading to end the week stable after declining in the previous three weeks. US crude is also expected to remain stable during the week.

Both contracts fell by about seven percent on Monday, but they made up for all those losses, with investors expecting demand to remain strong and the market receiving support from falling oil stocks and high vaccination rates.

Demand growth is expected to exceed supply after an agreement last Sunday between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries “OPEC” and its allies, within the framework of the “OPEC +” group, to return 400,000 barrels per day every month starting from August 2021.

Analysts from “AN” said Z Research” in a report that “the market is beginning to feel that the increase of 400,000 barrels per day will not be enough to maintain market balance, and that stocks in the United States and in the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are declining.”  link


Harambe:  Politico: U.S., Iraq to Agree That U.S. Combat Troops Should Leave by End of 2021


 U.S. and Iraqi officials are finalizing a shift in the U.S. military mission in Iraq to a purely advisory role by the end of the year, marking the official end of the U.S. combat mission in the country, according to a U.S. official and two people familiar with the issue. 

Officials plan to announce this shift on Monday after Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi meets with President Joe Biden at the White House, according to one of the people familiar with the discussions.

Under the plan, which the people stressed will not constitute a withdrawal of American forces from the country, a number of U.S. service members will remain in Iraq indefinitely. These troops will provide logistics and advisory support, as well as air power, intelligence and surveillance capability in the fight against the Islamic State, which this week claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Baghdad that left dozens dead.

The announcement will mark the culmination of a number of strategic dialogues between Iraq and U.S. officials over the American military presence in Iraq over the last few years, the person said. While the overall numbers likely won’t change much — there are roughly 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq today — the remaining combat forces will likely redeploy, replaced with personnel focused on the advisory mission, between now and the end of the year.

The change, which is being discussed as U.S. and Iraqi officials met Thursday at the Pentagon, will mark yet another shift for the U.S. military presence in Iraq, where the United States has deployed troops for most of the last 18 years.

Kadhimi previewed the announcement in a recent interview, saying that Iraq no longer has a need for U.S. combat troops.

“Iraqis are now ready to stand up on their feet and protect themselves. We are no longer in need of U.S. combat troops,” Kadhimi told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. “At the same time, we will continue to need intelligence support, training, capacity building and advice.”

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement to POLITICO that the meetings at the ministerial level “will reflect the breadth of this partnership and the importance with which the Biden administration views Iraq as a fulcrum for stability in the Middle East. We anticipate a number of deliverables to be announced in these areas at the close of the visit.”

The Biden administration’s approach to the conflict in Iraq stands in sharp contrast with the situation in Afghanistan, as America winds down its longest war. In Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi officials are seeking a long-term military partnership; in Afghanistan, all U.S. troops are expected to leave by Aug. 31, aside from roughly 600 who will remain to help secure the U.S. embassy and the Kabul airport.

But officials say the situation in Iraq is different. The Pentagon has trained hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in recent years who have led the fight against the Islamic State, with the U.S. military providing air support and intelligence when needed. Iraqi special forces are some of the most-capable and battle-tested in the region, officials say, and played a leading role in defeating the ISIS caliphate in 2019. In Afghanistan, by contrast, the Taliban have made steady gains for years, and the Trump administration’s 2020 peace deal with the group made the pullout all but inevitable, officials say.

Kadhimi is in the tricky position of trying to balance pressure from Iranian-linked political factions within his government that want American forces out entirely, and Iraq’s ongoing need for critical U.S. military support to continue fighting terrorists. Adding another layer of complexity to Kadhimi’s dilemma, Iranian-backed militia groups are relentlessly targeting U.S. and Iraqi troops in the country with drone and rocket attacks.

While the change on the ground would be subtle, official recognition of the shift in mission could be portrayed as a political win for Kadhimi ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for October.

The U.S. military has been gradually transitioning to an advisory role in Iraq since summer 2020, when American and Iraqi officials agreed in a series of communiques to reduce U.S. combat forces in the country.

In fact, in an April 7 joint statement, officials proclaimed that due to the increasing capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces, “the mission of U.S. and Coalition forces has now transitioned to one focused on training and advisory tasks, thereby allowing for the redeployment of any remaining combat forces from Iraq, with the timing to be established in upcoming technical talks.”

The announcement next week will officially put an end date on the transition. But the sources stressed that a withdrawal of U.S. troops in the near future is not being seriously discussed.

The U.S. military has maintained a steady presence in Iraq since 2014 under Operation Inherent Resolve, which saw American troops return to the country due to the rise of the Islamic State. But Iraq became the proxy battleground for a tit-for-tat conflict between Washington and Tehran in 2019 following then-President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposition of sanctions the previous year.

The conflict crescendoed in America’s Jan. 3 assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, which led the Iraqi Council of Representatives two days later to approve a nonbinding resolution calling for the end of the U.S. military presence in Iraq. That fall, the Pentagon formally announced a plan to reduce the U.S. military presence in Iraq by more than a third, from 5,200 to 3,000; by January 2021, the Trump administration had reduced that number to 2,500.

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