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

ISIS Failure in Kirkuk Shows Its Loss of Sunni Arab Support

Yaroslav Trofimov writes for The Wall Street Journal:

In June 2014, it took only several hundred Islamic State fighters to conquer Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul, with two entire Iraqi army divisions fleeing without much of a fight and many residents welcoming the invaders.

Last Friday, just as Iraqi, Kurdish and coalition troops were inching closer to Mosul to retake it, Islamic State launched a similar surprise attack on another major Iraqi city, Kirkuk. As the news of the assault spread, Islamic State authorities in Mosul staged street celebrations to salute the imminent addition of Kirkuk to their caliphate.

That attack, however, quickly ended in failure. The main reason is that Sunni Arabs, many of whom once viewed Islamic State as a liberator from Shiite or Kurdish oppression, have grown increasingly disgusted by the militant group.

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Concerns about ‘collective punishment’ after Sunni Arabs flee Iraqi city of Kirkuk

Kareem Fahim writes for The Washington Post:

More than a thousand Sunni Arabs displaced from battlefields across Iraq have fled the northern city of Kirkuk in recent days, after they were threatened with expulsion by Kurdish authorities in the city, relief workers said Tuesday.

The threat against the displaced Sunnis, which included the demolition of informal housing where they were sheltering, was an apparent reaction to a brazen attack on Kirkuk last week by dozens of Islamic State militants that killed at least 80 people — a plot that the authorities said benefited from collaborators inside the city.

The flight of the displaced Iraqis heightened fears, however, of a possible backlash against Sunni Arabs during a government offensive to recapture the northern city of Mosul. The city has been occupied by the Islamic State, a Sunni extremist group, for more than two years, and there are concerns that Sunnis in Mosul and surrounding areas could face retribution for their perceived sympathy for the militants.

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Politics, Population, and Hydrocarbons: Preparing for Mosul’s Aftermath

H. Akin Ünver writes for War on the Rocks:

By 1897, the feud between various Kurdish tribes of the Ottoman vilayet of Mosul had reached a troubling enough level that the palace decided replace the vali (governor) of the province.

Over a century later, as we watch fragile coalition of forces approach Mosul to oust a gang of religious fanatics, this divided vilayet remains a source of profound problems for its rulers.

It seems inevitable that Mosul will be liberated from ISIL, but how it is to be liberated will have a major impact on the strategic landscape in the Middle East. Many observers of different stripes have already offered their different perspectives on the conflict. It is important for all concerned to understand that regardless of which ethnic or sectarian group dominates Mosul’s administration after the war, three structural aspects will shape the city’s strategic hinterland: population, demography, hydrocarbons, and water. As a consequence, once the war is over, it will be impossible for Mosul’s new administration to avoid the gravitational pull of the KRG and thus be heavily influenced by the Kurds of Northern Iraq. This is first true in terms of population, due to Kirkuk and Erbil. Second, Mosul will play a key part in any future pipeline project that seeks to export KRG natural gas to European markets. And third, all the dams that supply water to Mosul through the Tigris river are also controlled by the KRG. In other words, even though Baghdad and Shia militias may seek to counterbalance against the Sunnis in Mosul in post-war setting, their ability to do so will be heavily dependent on the KRG’s control of almost every strategic resource Mosul needs.

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War-torn Iraq is the world’s most generous country to strangers

Ishaan Tharoor writes for The Washington Post:

In the midst of war, political chaos and a regional refugee crisis, Iraq still managed to be the world's most generous country to strangers in 2016, according to an annual global survey of charitable giving.

Eighty-one percent of Iraqi respondents reported helping someone they didn't know in the month before the study was conducted. The global poll was carried out by Gallup on behalf of Britain-based Charities Aid Foundation, or CAF, which has put out an index ranking 140 countries around the world on their generosity every year since 2010.

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Islamic State atrocities reported around Mosul, says UN

Kareem Shaheen reports for The Guardian:

Fresh evidence of atrocities and human rights abuses by Islamic State in and around Mosul have emerged, including massacres and sexual enslavement.

As coalition troops converged on the Iraqi city, the UN highlighted preliminary reports of mass killings in the surrounding areas, the latest in a long line of crimes against humanity – including the attempted genocide of religious minorities and dissidents, and broadscale sexual enslavement – that have come to characterise Isis’s activities in Syria and Iraq.

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Mosul battle: Four ways IS is fighting back

Richard Galpin writes for BBC News:

After more than a week of fighting, the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces are now getting close to the eastern outskirts of Mosul, the last city in Iraq still under the control of so-called Islamic State (IS).

The Iraqi authorities hope the joint offensive will succeed in pushing IS out of the city, which would be a crushing defeat for the militants and leave them with very little territory in Iraq.

But over the past week IS has been hitting back hard on the battlefield, and in various towns and cities.

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Ferocity of Kirkuk attack points to tough fight for Mosul

Babak Dehghanpisheh and Michael Georgy write for Reuters:

At least 100 fighters sneaked into Kirkuk in the early hours of Friday with machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, suicide vests and a message: "Islamic State has taken over."

By the time they had blasted their way across the city in a brazen and complex attack, 99 civilians and members of the security forces were dead and 63 of their own were in the morgue, according to Iraqi security officials.

The scale of the operation - the largest of several by Islamic State to divert an advance on their stronghold in Mosul - shows how tough the battle for Mosul may become and points to a continued ability of the militant group to undermine security across the country even if its northern bastion falls.

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Turkey’s complex reasons for fighting in Syria and Iraq

Ivan Watson, Isil Sariyuce, and Mohammed Eyad Kourdi write for CNN:

For months, the US has been building up an alliance in the Middle East aimed at dislodging ISIS from its strongholds in both Iraq and Syria.

But these efforts have been complicated in recent weeks by one of Washington's oldest allies in the region: Turkey.

The Turkish government is lashing out against factions currently battling ISIS. Ankara has been engaged in a very public war of words with the government in Iraq. At the same time, the Turkish military has been bombing US-backed Kurdish militants in Syria.

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The Worst Is Yet To Come in Mosul, US Leaders Say

Kevin Baron writes for Defense One:

The battle for Mosul has seen snipers, car bombs, missiles, oil-filled moats waiting for the torch, secret village-to-village tunnels, and a burning sulfur plant — and yet U.S. war leaders here warn that this is the light stuff. With each advance of Iraqi, Kurdish, and American forces, ISIS resistance is hardening.

In other words, things are going exactly as expected. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commanding general of coalition forces in Iraq, said they are pleased with how Iraqi, Kurdish, and American forces have positioned themselves in early fighting on Mosul’s outskirts. The anti-ISIS forces have squeezed an estimated 7,000 ISIS insurgents into their stronghold for a fight they predict will intensify with each kilometer.

“So far, it is proceeding according to our plan,” Carter said at Baghdad International Airport after a daylong visit with American commanders, Iraqi leaders, United Nations, and State Department officials in the city’s secure Green Zone. But there’s a feeling this week’s advances were all a setup for something much deadlier to come. “We’ve got tough fighting ahead,” he said.

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US Special Operators Accelerate Killings of ISIS Leaders

Kevin Baron writes for Defense One:

U.S. special operators in northern Iraq and Syria are killing Islamic State leaders at a faster pace, disrupting the organization’s defense of Mosul and, more importantly to Pentagon leaders, their ability to plot attacks against the United States and other targets outside the region.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a Sunday visit with American and coalition forces at the Joint Operations Center in Erbil, the Kurdish capital in northern Iraq, said he commended American fighters here who are supporting “elements in Syria” and working to envelop Raqqa. Quickening the pace of targeting ISIS leaders, known in military parlance as “high-value targets” or “high-value individuals,” has hurt the terrorist group’s ability to launch external “attacks aimed at our own people, our own country, and friends and allies,” he said.

“That remains our highest priority, always,” Carter said, “those external operations.”

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