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

ISIS destroys ancient ruins of Nimrud, video shows

AP reports:

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants hammered, bulldozed and ultimately blew up parts of the ancient Iraqi Assyrian city of Nimrud, destroying a site dating back to the 13th century BC, an online militant video purportedly shows.

The destruction at Nimrud, located near the militant-held city of Mosul, came amid other attacks on antiquities carried out by the group now holding a third of Iraq and neighbouring Syria in its self-declared caliphate. The attacks have horrified archaeologists and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who last month called the destruction at Nimrud "a war crime."

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A struggle to secure Iraq’s shared past, and perhaps its future

Michael Kimmelman writes for the New York Times:

Looted and shuttered after American troops seized Baghdad a dozen years ago, the National Museum of Iraq has officially reopened its doors — a response to Islamic State thugs’ taking jackhammers to ancient treasures in Mosul. The message was clear: Baghdad and its government belong to the civilized world, and the Islamic State does not. American officials even returned some recovered objects to show solidarity.

But public relations are one thing, daily life in the long-suffering Iraqi capital another. The reopened museum looks hardly changed since the Saddam Hussein era, notwithstanding tens of millions of mostly foreign money ostensibly spent on its rejuvenation, which went who knows where.

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The friends we left stranded in Iraq

Mark Doss writes for the Wall Street Journal:

American troops have come home from Baghdad, Fallujah and Mosul, but many of the Iraqis who risked their lives to aid U.S. forces are still waiting for their tickets out of danger. Hundreds of American allies, who worked as interpreters or provided valuable intelligence, are caught in a bureaucratic morass at the departments of State and Homeland Security.

In 2008 Congress created the Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa to help these brave men and women. Since then 6,378 applicants have received visas to resettle in the U.S. But more than 1,800 applicants have ended up stuck in limbo, told neither “yes” nor “no,” their applications endlessly pending. All the while, they face the constant threat of retaliation for having assisted the U.S. mission.

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Should Iraq’s archaeological treasures stay in the west?

Ann Marlowe writes for the Daily Beast:

“When I was a boy,” the Iraqi diplomat said, “My parents took me to the Louvre and I saw Hammurabi’s Code. I wondered why it wasn’t in Baghdad. Why did we Iraqis have to go to Paris to see it? Why couldn’t the rest of the world come to us? It made me angry.” He paused. “But after ISIS attacked Nimrud, I was glad that these things were not in Iraq.” Luckily, some monumental Assyrian sculpture from the extraordinary archeological trove at Nimrud was removed in the 19th century and placed in the British Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hatra wasn’t so lucky. Probably founded about 2,400 years ago under the Seleucids, it became the site of one of the first Arab kingdoms known to history, starting in 156 A.D. Although ruled by Muslims for centuries, it held examples of sculpture from an amazing array of artistic traditions, pre-Islamic Arabic as well as Greek, Caananite and Mesopotamian. Hatra was considered by archeologists to be “the best preserved and most informative example of a Parthian city.” No more. What the Prophet Muhammad’s contemporaries saw fit to preserve, ISIS has destroyed.

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No peace for Iraqi Christians this Easter

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett report for CNN:

This is the time of the year when Christians the world over -- more than 2 billion of us -- reflect upon the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord. In light of the tragic massacre of Christian college students in Kenya on Thursday, and the ongoing threat against Christians in other nations, this Holy Week we are calling upon Christians to also reflect upon the crucifixion, beheading, stoning, enforced slavery, sexual abuse, human trafficking, harassment, bombing and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Christians -- and others -- whose faith alone has made them a target of religious extremists.

Countless lives have been utterly destroyed in nations such as Iraq, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria. In June 2012, Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Iraq told the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, "We beg you to help. We want only peace, security, and freedom. Please no more death, no more explosions, no more injustice." By then, nearly every remaining church in Iraq had constructed a blast wall around its building to buffet the threat of the inevitable church bombing.

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Iraq PM says will cooperate with Kurds to liberate Nineveh

Reuters reports:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the Baghdad government would work with Kurdish authorities to liberate the northern province of Nineveh from Islamic State militants. During his first visit to the Kurdistan region since becoming Prime Minister last year, Abadi said Baghdad and Erbil faced a common enemy and would improve ties to help confront the threat.

"Our visit to Erbil today is to coordinate and cooperate on a joint plan to liberate the people of Nineveh," Abadi said at a joint news conference with Kurdish President Massoud Barzani on Monday. Abadi declined to lay out a timetable for the plan to retake Nineveh, of which Mosul is capital, in order not to lose the "element of surprise".

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Iraq: The lesser of two evils

Borzou Daragahi writes for the Financial Times:

It was a trip he took often, a 90-minute drive from his mansion on the outskirts of Babel province to the capital. But something went wrong around the time he was stopped at one of many checkpoints in southern Baghdad. Exactly what transpired remains unclear, but the night ended with Qassem Jenabi, a prominent Sunni tribal leader, his son Mohamed and their five bodyguards dead, their bullet-riddled bodies dumped next to their car. Nearly $7,000 in cash was untouched, and Mr Jenabi’s nephew, a member of Iraq’s parliament, was let go, as if the killers did not want the international attention that would come with murdering an elected official.

“The militias did this,” said Salman Jumaili, Iraq’s minister of planning, who was among the thousands attending Jenabi’s February 16 funeral service, held amid tight security for fear Isis militants would dispatch a suicide bomber. “The Iraqi armed forces and volunteers are fighting Isis. The militias, the extremists, are fighting people like Sheikh Qassem.”

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Archaeologists in Iraq defy militants

Sean Coughlan reports for the BBC:

Archaeologists from the University of Manchester have been working in Iraq and making "significant discoveries", while Islamic State militants have been bulldozing historic Assyrian sites. "If the militants think they can erase history we are helping to make sure that can't happen," said archaeologist Jane Moon. They have been excavating a Babylonian administrative centre from 1500BC. It has provided more than 300 artefacts for the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. The Manchester archaeologists, believed to be on one of only two international teams operating in non-Kurdish Iraq, have returned to the UK after three months of fieldwork, near to the ancient city of Ur.

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Exhumation of Iraq’s Camp Speicher victim mass graves begins

Reuters reports:

Iraqi forensic teams began on Monday excavating 12 suspected mass grave sites thought to hold the corpses of as many as 1,700 soldiers massacred last summer by Islamic State militants as they swept across northern Iraq. The mass killings last June of Shi'ite soldiers from Camp Speicher, a former U.S. base outside the Sunni city of Tikrit, has become a symbol of the brutality of Islamic State fighters and their hatred for Iraq's Shi'ite majority.

The deaths showed Iraqis that the Islamic State fighters, who have also attacked ethnic and religious minorites as well as fellow Sunni Muslims opposing them, were a threatening new kind of foe.

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Special Report: After Iraqi forces take Tikrit, a wave of looting and lynching

Ned Parker reports for Reuters:

On April 1, the city of Tikrit was liberated from the extremist group Islamic State. The Shi'ite-led central government and allied militias, after a month-long battle, had expelled the barbarous Sunni radicals. Then, some of the liberators took revenge.

Near the charred, bullet-scarred government headquarters, two federal policemen flanked a suspected Islamic State fighter. Urged on by a furious mob, the two officers took out knives and repeatedly stabbed the man in the neck and slit his throat. The killing was witnessed by two Reuters correspondents. The incident is now under investigation, interior ministry spokesman Brigadier General Saad Maan told Reuters.

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