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

Iraqi Forces Take Full Control of Fallujah From Islamic State

Tamer El-Ghobashy and Ghassan Adnan write for The Wall Street Journal:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the country’s military wrested full control of Fallujah from Islamic State, paving the way for an offensive to reclaim Mosul, the last major city controlled by the terror group in Iraq.

Mr. Abadi, flanked by triumphant senior military officers, spoke in Fallujah’s city center on Sunday evening and called on Iraqis to celebrate in the streets, hailing the victory as a rare moment of national unity.

“This Iraqi flag is flying in Fallujah,” he said in an address carried by state television, donning a black military-style uniform and waving a large flag. “God willing, soon it will be flying in Mosul.”

Fallujah, a Sunni Muslim city 40 miles west of the capital Baghdad, was the first major city to fall to Islamic State ahead of a 2014 offensive by the group that saw it take over about a third of the country.

The city had been a bastion of Islamic State control and served as a command center from which it has coordinated devastating suicide attacks against civilians in Baghdad. The battle for Fallujah has been seen as a test of preparedness for the larger offensive to come in Mosul.

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AP PHOTOS: Iraqi special forces share treasured possessions

Susannah George and Maya Alleruzzo write for AP:

Sgt. Ahmed Abdelaziz, with Iraq's special forces, has been almost continually deployed fighting the Islamic State group ever since the militants overran nearly a third of Iraq in the summer of 2014. Now he's on the front lines of Fallujah, a city declared "fully liberated" on Sunday by the commander leading the fight against IS. Abdelaziz has with him what he always brings into battle: a photo of his brother.

It's not a smiling family portrait. It is a picture on his mobile phone of his brother Saad's body among hundreds killed in a massacre carried out by the jihadis after they captured the military's Camp Speicher base in 2014. At the time, IS fighters killed more than 1,000 captured soldiers at the base, outside the city of Tikrit, north of Baghdad.

At first, Abdelaziz hadn't been sure of his brother's fate, but his worst fears were confirmed when IS released a video of the massacre and he recognized Saad in it. On his phone, he flipped through a series of stills from the video, saying the grisly images are reminders of his purpose in the fight.

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The man bringing electricity to Iraq

Rashed Radwan writes for Al-Jazeera:

Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the country's national grid supplied the capital, Baghdad, with between 16 and 20 hours of electricity each day. But more than a decade after the fall of Saddam Hussein, electricity supplies have dropped to an average of only one hour of power for every four hours of the day - that's six hours over a 24-hour period.

Hadi is known as the "generator man". He makes a living supplying others with electricity.

"Iraq is a very rich country, but life here is very difficult," he says. "We don't have the basic necessities covered to live with a minimum of dignity. Electricity is one of our biggest problems. The lack of energy doesn't let Iraq move ahead. It's a weird situation. We have so much oil but we don't have electricity."

A 10 amp domestic subscription to a private generator can cost anywhere between $60 and $100 a month. That's a luxury few can afford. But Hadi has a licence from the government that allows him to run a generator and provide electricity to others. In fact, he has two generators.

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How the Italian police wound up having a significant presence in Iraq

Missy Ryan writes for The Washington Post:

Under a fierce summer sun, an Iraqi police unit marches forward, braced together under riot shields protecting them from a barrage of rocks and, moments later, kicks from a scrum of men before them. The Iraqis then shuffle through a line of smoke and flames, an illustration of their ability to manage an unruly public gathering without resorting to force.

The riot control exercises are part of an expanding police training program led by Italy’s Carabinieri, or gendarmerie police, which has stationed about 50 trainers in Iraq as part of the U.S.-led military coalition against the Islamic State. The goal is to ensure that Iraq’s military-style federal police and local police contribute to the Iraqi government’s battle against militants and, equally important, can keep the peace once cities are cleared of militants. Since the current program began in June 2015, Italian personnel have trained more than 3,000 Iraqi police. Almost 1,000 more are being trained this summer.

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Iraqi Forces Focus on Militants in North and West Fallujah

Susannah George reports for AP:

Iraqi commanders are preparing to dislodge Islamic State group fighters from pockets of territory in Fallujah's northern and western neighborhoods where the militants have dug in after largely fleeing their positions in the city center last week.

Before Iraqi forces rolled into central Fallujah under cover of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, they were bogged down for weeks, trying to push through deep defensive trenches, tunnels and houses converted into bunkers by IS militants on the city's southern edge. Now looking to the city's north, Iraqi commanders expect to encounter a similarly fierce fight.

"It's not going to be easy," Iraqi special forces Brig. Gen. Ali Jameel said of the upcoming battle for the last pockets of IS resistance where an estimated 100 militants are largely surrounded.

"They are going to fight to the death because they have nowhere to run," he said.

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The myth of a tripartite Iraq

Denise Natali writes for Al-Monitor:

Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and breakdown of the Iraqi state, ethno-sectarian partition has become a popular political mantra. The assumption is that a federal state based on three autonomous regions — Sunni Arab, Shiite Arab and Kurd — is the most realistic way to stabilize Iraq and keep its borders intact. This claim has revived alongside the devastation and communal distrust created by the Islamic State (IS) and the territorial, demographic and political changes resulting from the campaign to counter IS.

The problem is that a tripartite Iraq has little bearing to realities on the ground, particularly in a post-IS context. Sunni Arab, Shiite Arab and Kurdish communities may be religiously and ethnically distinct and concentrated in particular regions, but they have also been dispersed across territories since the IS onslaught and are deeply fragmented. Internal boundaries and the uneven distribution of resources remain disputed between and within groups, creating additional challenges to reordering borders along clear ethno-sectarian fault lines. Instead of three self-sustaining regions, Iraq has become an amalgam of hyper-localized entities seeking self-rule and self-protection, while remaining dependent on Baghdad and prone to proxy conflicts.

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US to Host Pledging Conference for Iraq

Voice of America reports:

The United States will host a pledging conference next month to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to help Iraqis return to normal life.

The State Department said Wednesday that the events in Fallujah — where Iraqi forces are succeeding in taking back the city from Islamic State — are the most recent reminder of the toll that the war is taking on vulnerable civilians.

The U.S. will co-sponsor the conference with Canada, Germany and Japan on July 20. Washington said it planned to make a "substantial pledge" at the conference and urged other nations to join in.

The State Department said the United Nations already had been forced to close down dozens of lifesaving programs under its Iraq Humanitarian Response Plan because of a lack of funds.

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Offensives against Islamic State could displace 2.3 million Iraqis: U.N.

Stephen Kalin reports for Reuters:

Upcoming military offensives in Iraq against Islamic State, including an assault on the northern city of Mosul, could displace at least 2.3 million people, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Iraq said on Thursday.

The prediction of such a vast humanitarian emergency creates additional complications for the Iraqi government and its U.S. allies, who have announced plans for offensives to drive Islamic State fighters this year from most of their Iraqi territory.

More than 3.4 million people across Iraq have already been forced by conflict to leave their homes, according to the United Nations. In the past month, 85,000 people fled Falluja, an hour's drive from Baghdad, amid a military campaign that has recaptured large parts of the city from the jihadists.

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Falluja gains boost Iraqi PM ahead of Mosul, but for how long?

Stephen Kalin and Ahmed Rasheed write for Reuters:

The rapid entry of Iraqi forces into central Falluja last week surprised many who expected a drawn-out battle with Islamic State for the bastion of Iraq's Sunni insurgency, where some of the toughest fighting of the U.S. occupation took place.

The campaign has offered Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi respite from a political crisis that paralyzed government and turned violent when demonstrators breeched Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone.

Yet questions remain about whether Abadi - who declared victory on Friday even though Islamic State militants are still fighting in Falluja - can convert those military gains into political success, and what kind of model Falluja offers for the next major military campaign, against Islamic State-held Mosul.

Abadi and his commanders, who have pledged to retake the northern Iraqi city later this year, "needed a fast victory because they are very aware of setting precedents," said Renad Mansour, an Iraq scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center.

But "Falluja was a distraction. The protests in Baghdad will come back. People will say, 'OK we got Falluja, what's happening politically? What are the changes?'"

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A Tour of Falluja Reveals Grim Remnants of Life Under ISIS

Tim Arango writes for The New York Times:

As Iraqi forces move through Falluja, the city is yielding the grim remnants of more than two years of Islamic State rule. Beheaded and decaying bodies. Clumps of facial hair from fighters who shaved their beards to blend in with fleeing civilians. A prison where detainees were held in cages suitable for a medium-sized dog.

The forces have found books on Wahhabism, the extreme version of Sunni Islam from which the Islamic State draws inspiration, and on Saddam Hussein, whose rule by fear and secrecy the group has replicated.

Yet even as the picture of what life was like inside Falluja under the Islamic State is becoming clearer, a visit over the weekend to areas of the city taken by pro-government forces made clear that there is still heavy fighting.

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