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

UN: Iraq violence kills at least 1,100 in February

Sameer N. Yacoub reports for AP:

Iraq's prime minister called on Sunni tribal fighters to abandon the Islamic State group Sunday, ahead of a promised offensive to retake Saddam Hussein's hometown from the extremists. Haider al-Abadi offered no timeline for an attack on Tikrit, the hometown of the late Iraqi dictator some 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad that fell into the hands of the Islamic State group last summer. However, Shiite militias and Iraqi security forces have stationed themselves around Tikrit as state-run media has warned that the city "will soon return to its people."

But sending Shiite militias into the Sunni city of Tikrit, the capital of Iraq's Salahuddin province, could reprise the bloody, street-by-street insurgent battles that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. On Saturday, two suicide car bombers killed 16 nearby Shiite militiamen and wounded 31.

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These Americans return to Iraq as Christian warriors against Islamic State

Loveday Morris writes for the Washington Post:

In a smoky living room in a makeshift military headquarters in this northern Iraqi city, Brett, a former U.S serviceman with tattoos of Jesus etched on his forearms, explains how he hopes to help to keep the church bells of Iraq ringing. “Jesus tells us what you do unto the least of them, you do unto me,” said the 28-year-old from Detroit, who served an extended tour in Iraq in 2006 and 2007 and asked for his surname not to be published to protect his family at home. “I couldn’t sit back and watch what was happening, women being raped and sold wholesale.”

So in December he travelled to northern Iraq, where he joined a growing band of foreigners leaving their lives in the West behind to fight with newly formed Christian militias. The leaders of those militias say they’ve been swamped with hundreds of requests from veterans and volunteers from around the world who want to join them.

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Iraq launches major offensive to recapture Tikrit from ISIL

Al Jazeera reports:

Government forces backed by allied Shia and Sunni fighters have begun a large-scale military operation to recapture Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The offensive is part of the biggest military operation in the Sunni-majority province of Salahuddin since last June, when ISIL fighters, exploiting sectarian resentments of the Shia-led government, seized vast swaths of northern Iraq and advanced towards the capital, Baghdad.

"Today, God willing, we start an important military campaign to liberate the citizens of Salahuddin province," Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi said on Monday, speaking to forces gathered at the government-held city of Samarra, where the operation was launched.

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After 6,000 years, time for a renovation at Iraq’s Citadel

Ari Shapiro writes for NPR:

A map of the northern Iraqi city of Erbil looks like a dart board: circles, radiating outward from a central core. The bull's-eye sits high on a hill, crowned by ancient walls. The Erbil Citadel has stood here for at least 6,000 years. It's one of the oldest — and possibly the oldest — continuously inhabited sites on Earth.

The stories coming from this region these days are primarily ones of destruction and war. But here, in the Citadel, there's a different narrative, that of a plan to rebuild, restore and revitalize this ancient site. For now, there's no commerce here. The public is no longer allowed in — just teams digging to put in water and electricity.

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ISIS smashes priceless, ancient statues in Iraq

A.R. Williams writes for National Geographic:

Islamic State militants released a video on Thursday showing the destruction of priceless antiquities in northern Iraq. Running for more than five minutes, the video records men toppling statues in a museum and smashing them with sledgehammers, and attacking other statues at an archaeological site with a jackhammer. Likened to the 2001 demolition of the colossal Buddha statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, this latest rampage against the cultural heritage of the Middle East has sparked outrage and concern around the world.

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U.S. suspects accused of sending military supplies to terrorists in Syria, Iraq

Faith Karimi reports for CNN:

Six suspects linked to terrorist activity referred to Syria and Iraq as "the beach," and used other coded language to avoid detection in the United States, authorities say. The Bosnian immigrants, including a husband and a wife, were arrested this month in Illinois and St. Louis, according to court records released Friday. Three of the suspects are naturalized American citizens.

A federal indictment alleges they communicated via social media and conspired to send money and military equipment to terrorists in Syria and Iraq. They allegedly shipped firearms accessories, military uniforms and combat boots through intermediaries in Turkey. Suspects named in the indictment are Nihad Rosic, Armin Harcevic and married couple Ramiz and Sedina Hodzic, all from St. Louis, along with Illinois residents Mediha Salkicevic and Jasminka Ramic.

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Iraq’s national museum to open for first time since 2003 invasion

Scott Neuman reports for NPR:

Days after video emerged showing self-declared Islamic State extremists taking sledge hammers to pre-Islamic antiquities inside the Mosul museum, the Iraqi government has reopened the country's national museum, shuttered since the 2003 U.S. invasion of the country that toppled Saddam Hussein.

The National Museum's reopening was moved up as a retort to the move by ISIS in Mosul, which has been almost universally condemned as a most uncivilized act in a part of the world widely considered the cradle of civilization.

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Twin bombing targets marketplace in Iraq’s east

Al Jazeera reports:

A twin car bombing targeting a busy Iraqi market place has killed at least 21 people in a town northeast of Baghdad, police sources told Al Jazeera. Police officials said the attack took place on Saturday morning when the first bomb exploded near the market in the majority Shia town of Baladrouz, in the eastern Diyala province.  Minutes later, a second car bomb went off on the people who gathered to inspect the site of the first blast. At least 44 people were injured in the attacks according to medical sources.

Baladrouz is about 70km northeast of Baghdad. Hospital officials reported a lower death toll of at least nine and said at least 30 were wounded. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the media.

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Bogus university graduates clog Iraqi job market

Adnan Abu Zeed writes for Al Monitor:

Meager employment opportunities have led Iraqi university graduates holding doctoral and master's degrees to despair, as they pursue fruitless searches for jobs in government ministries and the private sector. In Babil province Feb. 3, some 200 unemployed university graduates attended a seminar in Murdoch Hall in Babil’s tourist resort. Also in attendance were the parliamentarian Haitham al-Jubouri as well as representatives from the Ministry of Higher Education and civil society organizations. The seminar included discussions about how to improve employment opportunities in Iraq.


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Kurdish peshmerga, IS reach stalemate

Fazel Hawramy writes for Al Monitor:

"How are the skies?" a gruff voice asks in Iraqi Arabic dialect. "The skies are clear," is the reply, after a crackle of static on the walkie-talkie through which a Kurdish major is listening to the conversation between two Islamic State (IS) militants on the other side of this front line, southwest of Kirkuk in Northern Iraq. An irrigation canal no wider than 10 meters (33 feet) separates the lightly armed Kurdish peshmerga forces from the extremist militants in Mula Abdula, where Maj. Aziz Ahmad stands behind a defensive berm, holding the walkie-talkie up to intercept the enemy’s communications.

“They change the frequency regularly and it is not easy to intercept,” he told Al-Monitor. "IS is terrified of bomber aircraft, especially the French.” With the help of coalition airstrikes, Kurdish forces have reclaimed most of the area they lost to IS in August 2014, driving the militants out of 15,000 square km (9,300 square miles) they consider historically their own. But the peshmerga forces have neither the will nor the means to advance much further into Sunni Arab areas.


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