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

Death penalty fuels violence in Iraq, says U.N. report

Tom Miles reports for Reuters:

Iraq should stop its widespread use of the death penalty, which is unjust, flawed and only fuels the violence it purports to deter, the United Nations said in a report on Sunday. Sixty people were hanged in Iraq by the end of August this year, and although that is fewer than the 177 who were executed in 2013, 1,724 people remained on death row.

Iraq tends to carry out the sentence in batches because President Jalal Talabani opposes the death penalty so a vice president orders executions when he is out of the country, said the report, published jointly by the U.N. Mission in Iraq and the U.N. Human Rights Office. Judges often pass death sentences based on evidence from disputed confessions or secret informants, condemning suspects who are unaware of their rights, may have been tortured and have no defense attorney until they arrive in court, the report said.

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Airstrikes hit ISIS targets in Syria, Iraq

Michael Pearson writes for CNN:

Airstrikes like those that have helped slow the advance of ISIS fighters in the Syrian town of Kobani rocked the city again Saturday. A huge plume of smoke rose over the city's center in the aftermath of an apparent airstrike that hit the area with three large blasts, according to CNN crews watching from bordering Turkey.

While accounts from within the city differed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian Kurdish forces who have retaken parts of the city fought with ISIS fighters south of the city, near the border crossing with Turkey. A fighter in Kobani who declined to be identified for security reasons said clashes also occurred in the city's eastern neighborhoods.

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ISIS militants target Baghdad amid wave of attacks in Iraq

Sinan Salaheddin reports for AP:

Militants unleashed a wave of attacks in Iraq on Thursday, mainly targeting Shiite areas in and around the capital of Baghdad, killing at least 50 people and wounding dozens, authorities said. The Islamic State group has overrun vast areas in western and northern Iraq as well as parts of neighboring Syria, and has vowed to destabilize and eventually take over Baghdad.

It claimed responsibility for the day's deadliest strike. In that attack, two parked car bombs exploded simultaneously in a commercial area in the northern Dolaie neighborhood, killing 14 civilians and wounding 34 others, a police officer said.

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U.S. troops to use bases in Turkey

Eric Schmitt and Kirk Semple write for the New York Times:

Turkey will allow American and coalition troops to use its bases, including a key installation within 100 miles of the Syrian border, for operations against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, Defense Department officials said Sunday. Obama administration officials have urged the Turkish government to play a more significant role in fighting the extremists who have seized large parts of Iraq and Syria and driven refugees into Turkey.

An American military team will arrive in Turkey this week to work out details of the training program and discuss what kind of missions can be flown from the Turkish bases, administration officials said. The basing and training agreement follows two days of talks in Ankara, the Turkish capital, between the authorities there and John R. Allen, the retired American general who is coordinating the coalition’s response to the Islamic State. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who has been traveling in South America, has said the United States has sought access to Turkish air bases, including one at Incirlik in southern Turkey.

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Appointment of Iraq’s new interior minister opens door to militia and Iranian influence

Loveday Morris writes for the Washington Post:

Iraq’s parliament voted Saturday to put an affiliate of an Iranian-backed paramilitary group in charge of a key security ministry, a move that could strike a serious blow to efforts to unite Sunnis and Shiites to wrest back their country from Islamist extremists. The new interior minister is Mohammed Ghabban, a little-known Shiite politician with the Badr Organization. But there is little doubt that Hadi al-Amiri, head of the party and its military wing, will wield the real power in the ministry.

The Badr militia ran notorious Shiite death squads during Iraq’s sectarian war, after infiltrating the Interior Ministry. A leaked 2009 State Department cable said sources had indicated that Amiri may have personally ordered attacks on up to 2,000 Sunnis. Amiri has denied such allegations.

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Could Iraq’s tribes provide the glue that keeps the country from falling apart?

Dominique Soguel writes for the Christian Science Monitor:

In recent weeks, the self-styled Islamic State has inched toward Baghdad, putting Iraq’s army and government under increasing pressure and challenging their ability to preserve any semblance of a cohesive Iraqi state. Backed by Western airpower, the Shiite-dominated security forces and the Kurdish peshmerga are fighting back against the Sunni jihadists.

But when it comes to reversing the dramatic IS victories in Sunni areas, some leaders of Iraq’s influential tribes say they could prove a vital counterforce, at least until a proposed Iraqi national guard becomes a reality. Sheikh Wasfi al-Asi, who heads a tribal council opposed to the IS, estimates that more than 20,000 tribesmen are now either in training or already fighting IS alongside Kurdish or government forces across Iraq.

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Iraq crisis: MPs complete anti-ISIS government

BBC reports :

Iraqi MPs have approved new defence and interior ministers, completing a unity government that is battling the spread of Islamic State militants. Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban, a Shia, was appointed interior minister, while Khaled al-Obeidi, a Sunni, was confirmed as defence minister. IS controls large parts of the country, and has been making gains despite US-led coalition air strikes.

On Friday, a curfew was imposed in the city of Ramadi amid fierce fighting. The vote by Iraqi MPs will be a big relief both inside and outside Iraq after weeks of wrangling, says BBC Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher. A more inclusive cabinet is seen as an essential first step in countering IS fighters, particularly among Iraq's Sunni minority, our correspondent adds.

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Neighbor against neighbor

Alia Malek writes for Al Jazeera:

On this nameless street, colloquially known to residents only as Green Mosque Road, the high walls that line the sidewalks make each house a compound unto itself, with only roofs and treetops visible to the outside. But behind these walls, neighbors say they shared their lives — weddings, funerals, holidays and meals — and lived as one family. The Kurdish Mohsens and the Arab Mareis, whose houses are at opposite ends of their block, broke bread together for years, whether in their homes or on picnics in the cooler mountains above their town, some 60 miles south of Mosul. Mohammed Mohsen, 20, remembers that at their last outing in the spring, they laughed endlessly over a generous feast — though the Mareis’ cooking was never quite as good as his mother’s. But a few days after the town of Makhmour was liberated from the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an angry mob came to set fire to the empty Marei house. Mohsen stood aside and let it burn.

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A train ride through time: from Iraq’s checkered past into an uncertain future

Saad al-Tammimi is in his fourth decade working for Iraq’s railroads, a career that has taken him all around his country, and around the Middle East. Nowadays, though, he can go only from Baghdad to Basra, across the relatively calm Shiite-dominated south of this war-torn country. “If we have a problem and have to stop, it’s safe,” he said on a recent evening as he drove his regular route. “Even the Sunnis feel comfortable going to Basra.”

With so much violence, neglect and political dysfunction here, it has been years since passenger trains leaving Baghdad went anywhere other than Basra. In recent years, however, grand ambitions to link the country by railroad had begun taking shape. Freight trains shuttled goods around Iraq, and a few years ago there were test runs of a new train service between Mosul and Turkey. But as the militants of the Islamic State have advanced around the country, those efforts have halted.

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Brent near four-year low as Iraq follows Saudi price cuts

Moming Zhou writes for Bloomberg news:

Brent crude dropped to the lowest level in almost four years after Iraq followed Saudi Arabia and Iran in cutting prices. West Texas Intermediate’s discount to Brent narrowed. Iraq, OPEC’s second-biggest producer, will sell its Basrah Light crude to Asia at the biggest discount since January 2009, the country’s State Oil Marketing Co., known as SOMO, said yesterday. Iran last week said it will sell oil to Asia in November at the biggest discount in almost six years, matching cuts by Saudi Arabia. “OPEC is not ready to act and that’s making people continue to sell,” said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research in Winchester, Massachusetts. “Until we see some comments out of OPEC suggesting they are going to stabilize the price, I think the market will probably keep falling.”

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