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

Iran general slams Iraq referendum plan during Erdogan talks

AFP reports:

Iran's Armed Forces chief of staff said Wednesday after talks with Turkey's president that a referendum on independence in Iraq's Kurdish region would trigger conflict and negative consequences for the entire region.

General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri's remarks, carried by Iran's official IRNA news agency, underlined the firm opposition shared in Tehran and Ankara to the poll next month.

"Both sides stressed that if the referendum would be held, it will be the basis for the start of a series of tensions and conflicts inside Iraq, the consequences of which will affect neighbouring countries," Bagheri was quoted as saying.

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With a wary eye on Iran, Saudi and Iraqi leaders draw closer

Ahmed Rasheed and Sylvia Westall write for Reuters:

It was an unusual meeting: An Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim cleric openly hostile to the United States sat in a palace sipping juice at the invitation of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the Sunni kingdom that is Washington's main ally in the Middle East.

For all the implausibility, the motivations for the July 30 gathering in Jeddah between Moqtada al-Sadr and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman run deep, and centre on a shared interest in countering Iranian influence in Iraq.

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Powering west Mosul’s water plants

Hugo de Vries writes for UNDP:

Mosul was declared fully liberated by the Prime Minister of Iraq in early July, and the difficult work of rebuilding has begun. More than 700,000 civilians are still away from their homes – waiting to restart their lives. Through its Funding Facility for Stabilization, UNDP has been implementing projects in Mosul in close proximity to the front line since late 2016. More than 300 are already under way and hundreds more are starting in coming weeks.

We’ve had to find quick pragmatic solutions for difficult problems. The New Water Treatment Plant (al-Ayman al-Jadeda), which provides safe drinking water to half the population in western Mosul, is a good example.  Rehabilitating the facility has involved fixing pumps and internal machinery as well as ensuring a predicable supply of power. After surveying local capacities, teams on the ground agreed on a pragmatic division of labour. With the Government providing technical guidance, the Danish Refugee Council replaced the transformers, which they had on hand, while UNDP strung a high voltage line across the Tigris river from eastern Mosul, where the Government has already restored parts of the power grid, to the water plant.

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New life amid the ruins of Mosul’s maternity hospital

Raya Jalabi writes for Reuters:

As yet unnamed twin babies lie in an incubator in a run-down room in Mosul’s main maternity hospital. Less than two weeks old, they are two of seven newborns crammed into a makeshift premature baby ward.

Born just three weeks after Iraqi forces declared that they had finally recaptured the last part of the city from Islamic State, the twins won’t know what it’s like to grow up under the jihadists' draconian rule. But they are lucky in more ways than one – had they been born months earlier, their chances of survival would have been slim as the hospital’s neo-natal wings had been burned down by the militants.

Al-Khansa Hospital in East Mosul may be a shell of its former self but it is still the city's main government-run maternity facility. Last month alone, despite severe shortages of medicines and equipment, it delivered nearly 1,400 babies.

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Iraq asks UN to collect evidence to prosecute Islamic State

Edith M. Lederer writes for AP:

Iraq is asking the U.N. Security Council for assistance in collecting evidence to prosecute extremists from the Islamic State group for possible crimes against humanity.

Iraq's Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres circulated Wednesday that his government and the United Kingdom are working on a draft Security Council resolution seeking assistance.

It was sent more than five months after human rights lawyer Amal Clooney urged Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to send a letter to the council so it can vote to set up an investigation into crimes by the group in Iraq.

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Suicide attacker kills seven Iraqi soldiers near city of Baiji

Reuters reports:

Seven Iraqi soldiers were killed on Wednesday when a suicide attacker tried to infiltrate a security headquarters near the northern city of Baiji where Islamic State is entrenched in nearby mountain areas, security sources said.

Around five assailants attacked the compound where police and army troops are based. One blew up his explosives vest at the entrance while the other four clashed with guards for around three hours, said army colonel Mohammed al-Assadi.

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Iraq minister faces questions over trade corruption allegations

Reuters reports:

Iraq's parliament on Tuesday questioned acting Trade Minister Salman al-Jumaili over corruption allegations linked to the ministry, mostly stemming from a deal to import Indian rice in 2016.

The minister, a Sunni Muslim in a government dominated by Shi'ites, was questioned by lawmaker Alia Nussayif and denied any wrongdoing by the ministry.

Allegations included importing and distributing contaminated rice and questionable licenses for new wheat mills that went against regulations for the subsidy program.

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Iraq bombing Islamic State-held Tal Afar ahead of assault: Iraqi military spokesman

Maher Chmaytelli writes for Reuters:

Iraqi forces are carrying out air strikes on Tal Afar, a town held by Islamic State west of Mosul, in preparation for a ground assault, an Iraqi military spokesman said on Tuesday.

Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate effectively collapsed last month, when U.S.-backed Iraqi forces completed the recapture of Mosul, the militants' capital in northern Iraq, after a nine-month campaign.

Parts of Iraq and Syria remain however under Islamic State control, especially along the border.

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Iraqi Shiite militias pledge to take part in next IS fight

AP reports:

Iraq's Shiite militias announced on Monday they will participate in the next major battle against the Islamic State group after the Iraqi forces' victory in Mosul last month.

The Shite militias did not fight in the urban part of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, but were key in clearing far-flung villages of IS and capturing supply lines in the desert west of Mosul toward Iraq's border with Syria.

The spokesman for the government-sanctioned umbrella — known as the Popular Mobilization Forces or PMF and mostly made up of Shiite militias — says the participation of the militiamen is "essential" in the upcoming fight for the town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul. About 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of the Syrian border, Tal Afar was once home to both Shiites and Sunni ethnic Turkmen.

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Iraq’s Shiites Test Iran

Alex Vatanka writes for Foreign Affairs:

Over the last few months, Iraq’s Shiite political groups have intensified their fight for influence in Baghdad in preparation for the parliamentary elections next year. Much to the displeasure of Iran, which has supported a number of these groups, some Iraqi Shiites have been publicly distancing themselves from their patron because posturing as independent forces, free from the tutelage of foreign powers, will win them points with Iraqi voters.

Tehran is particularly concerned that after the Islamic State (ISIS) is finally driven out of Iraq, the political dialogue that will ensue among the country’s various political factions, as well as between Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian groups, about power-sharing will shut Iran out, and in turn jeopardize its long-term interests for regional control. There is now a debate in Tehran over whether the trend in Baghdad is simply a tempest in a teapot or whether Tehran will have to learn to live with a resurgent Iraqi Shiite nationalism.

The outcome of this intra-Shiite struggle could have an impact on Iranian interests well outside of Iraq’s borders. Iran’s wariness was apparent when the Iraqi Shiite firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr showed up on July 30 in Jeddah, the Red Sea port city in Saudi Arabia, Iran’s principal rival. At the minimum, looser sway over Iraq’s Shiites will slow Tehran’s plans to expand its ideological influence in the region.

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