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

Iraqi forces try to bring civilians out of west Mosul, U.S. pledges more support

Patrick Markey reports for Reuters:

Iraqi government forces attempted to evacuate civilians from Mosul's Islamic State-held Old City on Tuesday so that troops could clear the area, but militant snipers hampered the effort, Iraqi officers said.

They said the insurgents were also using civilians as human shields as government units edged toward the al-Nuri Mosque, the focus of recent fighting in the five-month-long campaign to crush Islamic State in the city that was once the de facto capital of their self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate.

As many as 600,000 civilians remain in the western sector of Mosul, complicating a battle being fought with artillery and air strikes as well as ground combat. Thousands have escaped in recent days.

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ISIS Dumped Hundreds in Mass Grave

Human Rights Watch reports:

The Islamic State (also known as ISIS) executed and dumped the bodies of possibly hundreds of detainees at a site near Mosul, Human Rights Watch said today.

Multiple witnesses told Human Rights Watch that the bodies of those killed, including bodies of members of Iraqi security forces, were thrown into a naturally occurring sinkhole at a site known as Khafsa, about eight kilometers south of western Mosul. Local residents said that before pulling out of the area in mid-February, ISIS laid improvised landmines at the site, which are sometimes referred to as improvised explosive devices or booby traps.

“This mass grave is a grotesque symbol of ISIS’s cruel and depraved conduct – a crime of a monumental scale,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Laying landmines in the mass grave is clearly an attempt by ISIS to maximize harm to Iraqis.”

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American medics try to heal Mosul

Molly Hennessy-Fiske writes for LA Times:

When an elderly man arrived at a front line clinic this week, right leg burned while fleeing an airstrike, an American medic took one look and knew he needed to get the patient to a hospital fast.

As Iraqis face the daily horrors of improvised explosive devices, mortar rounds, snipers’ bullets and airstrikes, nonprofit civilian groups from the U.S. and Europe are attempting to provide critical medical assistance.

The medics said the task is often overwhelming, as they’re called to treat not only injured soldiers and civilians but families living in surrounding neighborhoods who face shortages of medication, food and water.

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ISIS battles U.S.-backed troops to vicious standoff in Mosul

Charlie D'Agata reports for CBS:

We witnessed first-hand just how vicious a street battle the fight for western Mosul has become. Heavy gunfire and explosions rang out from every direction.

It was hard to know where to take cover. Iraqi soldiers dashed across the street, dodging fire from an ISIS sniper. A mortar exploded behind us.

This is what the fight to recapture the Old City of Iraq’s second-largest metropolis has become and, right now, it’s clear ISIS still has the upper hand. Iraqi forces’ armored vehicles can’t get through the labyrinth of alleyways and narrow side streets, so soldiers have to fight this battle on foot.

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Yazidis who suffered genocide are fleeing again, but this time not from the Islamic State

Loveday Morris writes for The Washington Post:

Relatives collapsed in grief as the coffin of an 18-year-old Yazidi fighter was carried to a small temple at the base of Mount Sinjar.

Salam Mukhaibir’s death this month, along with four other Yazidi fighters, marked the latest dark turn for an Iraqi minority sect that has suffered genocide at the hands of the Islamic State.

But the men were not killed fighting the militants. They died in clashes with Kurdish peshmerga forces when long-simmering rivalries erupted.

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As Iraqi forces fight to take Mosul, car bomb in Baghdad kills 23 people

Patrick Markey and John Davison write for Reuters:

Islamic State militants captured an Iraqi police colonel and eight other officers on Monday after they ran out of ammunition during a skirmish in the battle for western Mosul, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.

The official, who declined to be identified, said the incident took place as government forces closed in on Islamic State fighters in the Old City and other districts, in an offensive intended to crush the hardline group in what was once the de facto capital of their self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate.

In the capital, Baghdad, a car bomb killed at least 23 people and wounded more than 45 in a mainly Shi'ite southern district, police and medical sources said.

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Will Iraq survive victory over ISIS in Mosul?

Peter Bergen writes for CNN:

In a tea room in Sulaimani's old bazaar that's dense with the smoke of scores of cigarettes, bunches of grizzled, middle-aged men -- some wearing traditional Kurdish baggy trousers, other wearing suits without ties -- are arguing furiously about the great question of the day:

What happens to Iraq after ISIS loses the key Iraqi city of Mosul?

For the moment, the Iraqi army, Kurdish peshmerga forces, Shia militias and Sunni tribal units are all united in fighting ISIS. But even in Sulaimani, an Iraqi-Kurdish city close to the border with Iran that is one of the most stable corners of a very unstable Middle East, there is considerable worry about what comes next. As a senior Iraqi government official put it to me: "This is the $64,000 question."

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Iraqi Leader: Trump To Accelerate Support

Vivian Salama and Robert Burns report for AP:

Emerging from his first meeting with President Donald Trump, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Monday he was assured the U.S. will accelerate its support for his country's struggle against the Islamic State group.

"I think they are prepared to do more" than the administration of President Barack Obama, he said. Obama was reluctant to commit large numbers of U.S. troops to combatting IS in Iraq, but his approach, which relied on training and supporting local forces, has succeeded in pushing the militants out of much of the territory they once held.

Speaking at a Washington think tank shortly after his White House visit, al-Abadi said he got the impression that the Trump administration will take a more aggressive approach, although he did not say what that might entail.

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Iraqis pouring out of Mosul find no place at crowded camps

John Davison and Patrick Markey write for Reuters:

Mohammed Ali and his family, carrying all their worldly possessions in a few bags, had been on the road for 18 hours since fleeing their home in an Islamic State-held area of Mosul.

They hoped to find shelter at a camp. So far, they have had no luck.

"We tried at Hammam al-Alil camp," about 35 km (22 miles) south of Mosul, the 50-year-old said, flanked by 20 relatives including sons and grand-nephews and nieces. "It was full."

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Abadi, Trump Set to Discuss Islamic State Battle

Voice of America reports:

U.S. President Donald Trump will host Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for talks Monday that are likely to include the ongoing offensive to recapture the key northern city of Mosul from Islamic State militants.

Last month, the two leaders discussed the battle against Islamic State during a phone call, but on Monday they will have their first face-to-face meeting.

Before departing for Washington, Abadi said he wanted to talk with Trump about "how to complete the final stages to defeat ISIS and those who are helping them."

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