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

Will Shia divisions hamstring Iraq?

Interview with Mohamad Bazzi, Associate Professor of Journalism at New York University :

Iraq's next prime minister Haider al-Abadi must maintain the support of the country's powerful Shia factions while he builds a new administration and attempts to reverse the sectarian policies of his predecessor, says expert Mohamad Bazzi, who covered the 2003 Iraq war and its aftermath. At the same time, Abadi will have to retain the confidence of Iran, which views Shia-led Iraq as a vital strategic counterweight to Sunni Arab rivals in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia, explains Bazzi.


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US strategy vs. Islamic State: Better right than fast

Jim Gains writes for Reuters:

In her recently published memoir Hard Choices, former Senator Hillary Clinton recounts the meeting, nine days after the election of 2008, when President-elect Barack Obama first asked her to be his secretary of state. He “presented a well-considered argument,” she writes, “explaining that he would have to concentrate most of his time and attention on the economic crisis and needed someone of stature to represent him abroad.”

No doubt he meant that sincerely — the U.S. financial system was still deep in crisis — but in the context of events this summer, Obama’s assumption that he would be focused mainly on domestic concerns suggests how little even a president of the United States can claim control of world events. The murders of American journalists James Foley and now Steven Sotloff by the Islamic State have put a very fine point on that.

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Held by IS for 40 days, a Turkish photographer tells his story

Amberin Zaman writes for Al Monitor:

Bunyamin Aygun, an award-winning Turkish photojournalist who was captured by Islamic State (IS) militants last November and held for 40 days, is the first and only journalist held by IS to go public with his ordeal. Aygun’s account, which ran for five days in his newspaper, Milliyet, offers a rare and nuanced glimpse into the murky world of IS. Published in January, the series revealed the heavy presence of Turks in the group and the glaring threat that they pose to their own country. “Turkey is next,” IS fighters repeatedly told the veteran journalist. But the story received scant attention.

In Turkey, a massive corruption scandal implicating Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his close circle held the nation in thrall. The few stories that appeared in Western outlets were short and dry. Aygun had not revealed that his captors were IS at the time. But would it have made much of a difference? Probably not, because Aygun is not a Westerner. He is a Muslim and a Turk. Besides, Mosul had not yet been overrun, nor had all 49 members of the Turkish consulate there been taken hostage by IS. And James Foley’s brutal execution had not yet taken place.


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U.N. to send team to investigate ISIS crimes in Iraq

Stehpanie Nebehay writes for Reuters:

The United Nations agreed on Monday to send investigators to Iraq to examine crimes being committed by ISIS militants on “an unimaginable scale”, with a view to holding perpetrators to account. “We are facing a terrorist monster,” Iraq’s human rights minister, Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani, told the U.N. Human Rights Council which adopted a resolution tabled by Iraq and France at an emergency sitting of the 47-member state forum in Geneva.

The Council aims to send 11 investigators, with a total budget of $1.18 million, to report back by March 2015. ISIS, which declared a “caliphate” in June in parts of Iraq and Syria under its control, has been cited as a major security threat by Western governments since posting a video in August of the beheading of U.S journalist James Foley.

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This is what detente looks like: The United States and Iran join forces against ISIS

Mohsen Milani writes for Foreign Affairs:

It is no particular surprise that U.S. President Barack Obama is on the verge of turning over a new leaf with Iran. After all, over the course of his presidency, Obama has repeatedly emphasized that he would like the United States and Iran to overcome their 35 years of estrangement. What is surprising, however, is how rapprochement has come about -- not through negotiations over the fate of Tehran’s nuclear program, but as a result of the battle against ISIS.

Tehran and Washington find themselves on the same side in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), also called the Islamic State (IS), and there are already signs that they have been cooperating against the extremist group’s advance through Iraq. Although there is no guarantee that this will last for the duration of the war, such cooperation is clearly a positive step.

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ISIS becomes target of Arab satire

AP reports:

The bumbling young militant first drops the rocket launcher on the toes of his boss before taking aim and firing toward a military checkpoint outside of an Iraqi town — not realising he’s fired it backward at his leader. The Looney Tunes-style cartoon targeting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) comes after its militants have swept across large swaths of Syria and Iraq, declaring their own self-styled caliphate while conducting mass shootings of their prisoners.

The group cheers its advances and beheadings in slickly produced internet videos. In response, television networks across the Middle East have begun airing cartoons and comedy programs using satire to criticize the group and its claims of representing Islam.

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PKK forces impress in fight against Islamic State

Mohammed A. Salih writes for Al Monitor:

Ahmed Mohammed was staring at the corpses of two fighters from the Islamic State (IS), dumped in a natural ditch just a short distance from the town of Makhmour, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital city, Erbil.

“We killed seven of them, but just brought back these two bodies to boost up people’s morale here,” said Mohammed, a nom de guerre, with his AK-47 rifle hanging on his shoulder. He was a member of a fighting force in Makhmour affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a rebel group whose guerrillas have honed their skills fighting the Turkish military, NATO’s second-largest, for Kurdish rights for around three decades.



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Iraq retakes more towns from Islamic State

Jane Arraf writes for Al Jazeera:

Iraqi Kurdish forces and Shia armed volunteers have retaken more northern towns from the Islamic State group, killing at least two of its senior fighters, sources have told Al Jazeera. A day after breaking the siege in the town of Amerli north of Baghdad, government forces retook the town of Sulaiman Bek on Monday, removing another key stronghold of the Islamic State group.

Iraqi officials said they killed, Mussab Mamoud, the town's Islamic State head, and Mazen Zaki, the military wing commander, along with more than 20 other Sunni rebel fighters. Iraqi security officials said eight of the fighters were Chechen. They also said the fighters include dozens of nationalities, including experienced Chechen snipers.

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Forgotten in Iraq: Besieged city faces destruction by the Islamic State

Christopher Reuter and Jacob Russel write for Spiegel Online:

"Every day I receive about 100 patients. Every day there is shelling. Some of the injuries are very complicated, legs amputated, head wounds. But I don't have the materials to provide serious treatment. There are cases where I have put patients on the helicopter alive and they die when they get to Baghdad." Dr. Khaldoun Mahmoud speaks extremely rapidly, and with good reason. There is only a single place remaining in the northern Iraqi town of Amirli where he still has a modicum of mobile phone reception: at the helicopter landing pad above the village. And with every call, he is risking his life. Fighters from the Islamic State (IS) have surrounded the town and are just one kilometer away.

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Iraqi Kurds say their fight is against more than just the Islamic State

Eric Cunningham writes for the Washington Post:

Kurdish fighters are struggling to hold on to recent gains against Islamic State militants in Iraq in the face of constant shelling and sniper fire. But Kurds say the jihadists have another weapon: local Arab sympathizers.

The Kurds suspect ethnic Arabs have backed the militants in battles that have raged in Iraq’s north over the past month, including a stunning advance by the jihadists. The fighting has displaced thousands of families in a region long known as a flashpoint for Arab-Kurdish violence. Now many Sunni Arab residents are barred from coming home. “The Arabs here stabbed us in the back, and now they are threatening us” from the villages nearby, a Kurdish intelligence officer, Ahmed Hawleri, said from the front-line district of Gwer.

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