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

Egypt, Syria, Iraq used 2014 turmoil to abuse rights – report

Oliver Holmes reports for Reuters:

The governments of Egypt, Syria and Iraq used real and perceived security threats in 2014 as an excuse to downplay or abandon the rights of their citizens, which ultimately fuelled crises, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday. In its annual review of global human rights, the group said security forces across the globe are ignoring rights in dealing with threats, such as China’s crackdown on Uighurs in Xinjiang, Mexico’s war on drugs and Nigeria's fight against Boko Haram.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of the New York-based group, told Reuters "there has been a tendency, particularly in the Middle East, to play shortsighted security concerns over principled support for human rights."

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Iraq probes alleged massacre by Shia militia in Diyala

The BBC reports:

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered an investigation into allegations Shia militiamen massacred Sunni residents of an eastern village. Witnesses said more than 70 people were killed on Monday after pro-government forces expelled Islamic State (IS) from its last stronghold in Diyala province. But military officials dismissed the claims of a massacre in Barwana, saying they had been fabricated.

The UN's envoy to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, welcomed Mr Abadi's decision. "It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that all armed forces are under its control, that rule of law is respected and that civilians are protected in all areas of the country, including those areas recently liberated from IS," he said in a statement.

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Attacks kill 16 people in Iraq

Sameer N. Yacoub reports for AP:

Bombings and a shooting killed at least 16 people around the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Thursday, including soldiers and Shiite militiamen, officials said. Police officials say the deadliest attack took place Thursday afternoon when two suicide bombers set off their explosive belts inside a Shiite militia headquarters in the town of Mishada, 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of Baghdad, killing seven Shiite militiamen and wounding 20 others. Shiite militias have been fighting alongside government forces against the Islamic State, a Sunni extremist group that seized vast swaths of northern and western Iraq last year.

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Iraq wants to fight the Islamic State. It must fight falling oil prices first

Keith Johnson writes for Foreign Policy:

Iraq’s leaders are tying themselves in knots trying to save themselves from the pain of plunging oil prices while crafting a budget that can meet the country’s most pressing needs with shrunken revenues. One of the biggest questions is whether the smaller budget will handicap Iraq’s ability to launch the long-awaited spring offensive against the Islamic State.

Since last summer, crude prices have fallen about 60 percent, trading around $50 a barrel in London on Wednesday, Jan. 28. That’s bad news for plenty of oil exporters around the world — Venezuela and Russia are wheezing, in particular — but the fiscal squeeze is hammering Iraq right as it tries to rebuild its shattered army to do battle with the Islamic State. The United States hopes that the shattered Iraqi military can be rebuilt enough that it will be capable of waging a successful ground battle against the terrorist group, which has taken over chunks of Iraq’s north and west.

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Is the new national guard the key to unifying Iraq?

Mushreq Abbas writes for Al Monitor:

A wide range of armed forces beholden to different authorities outside the defense and interior ministries are spread across Iraq. This reality was not spawned by the occupation of Mosul by the Islamic State (IS) in 2014, but by the chaos and intersection of various agendas and interests. The current discussion surrounding the formation of a National Guard is an acknowledgment of this reality and an attempt to create a legal framework to control the situation.

Unofficial armed forces have always been a formidable presence in Iraq alongside official forces, even under Saddam Hussein, whose son Uday announced the formation of a force called the Fedayeen Saddam in November 1994. At the same time, the Baath Party had an armed presence that was more influential than the police and also directly linked to Uday. It enjoyed more power than the other security apparatuses. After 2003, the situation became more complicated, as armed forces proliferated either under the banner of “resistance to occupation” or to protect communities. The Iraqi arena experienced a race to fill the void left by the absence of the Iraqi army on the one hand and to defend the interests of conflicting political and economic parties on the other.


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Families in critical situation in southern Iraq as winter bites

The Guardian reports:

Thousands of Iraqis are living in penury and running out of money after fleeing fighting and settling in the south of the country, the UN’s food agency said on Tuesday, warning that the situation was becoming critical for families in Najaf, Kerbala and Babil. Jane Pearce, the World Food Programme’s (WFP) country director for Iraq, said structures had not yet been put in place to cater for the people fleeing into the three southern provinces.

WFP is distributing food to 50,000 displaced families in Basra, Dhi Qar, Qadisiya, Missan, Wasit, Muthanna, Najaf, Kerbala and Babil. Many of those who fled were unable to find refuge in the crowded Kurdistan region, which hosts close to half of internally displaced Iraqi families, while others said it was too expensive to live in the north.

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Beyond front lines in Iraq, a forgotten force faces Islamic State

Mitchell Prothero reports for Mcclatchy:

Sheikh Mohammed jumped into his battered Toyota pickup and offered a visiting journalist his rusting Kalashnikov assault rifle for the three-mile ride to the front lines. The offer rejected, he told his cousin Ali not to mention the journalist’s presence on the internal radio system because Islamic State fighters less than a mile away monitor the channel and they might mount an attack specifically to capture a journalist.

“Every last man of ours will die to protect you if they attack,” Sheikh Mohammed said with a rhetorical flourish. Then he laughed. “But there are a lot of them and they have tanks.” Sheikh Mohammed and Ali – they asked that their family and tribal names not be used because they still have family in Islamic State-occupied Mosul – are nearly forgotten players in the nasty war that’s embroiled most of Iraq.


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Airlines suspend flights to Iraq’s Baghdad airport after jet is hit by gunfire

Kareem Fahim reports for the New York Times:

A commercial jet carrying 154 passengers was struck by gunfire as it landed at Baghdad International Airport, officials said Tuesday, adding to fears that Iraq’s most important transportation hub remains vulnerable to militant attacks. One passenger, a 6-year-old girl, was lightly injured when at least three bullets struck the plane on Monday, airline and Iraqi officials said. The plane, a 737-800 operated by Flydubai, a budget carrier based in the United Arab Emirates, landed safely.

The airline said that damage “consistent with small-arms fire” was discovered on the fuselage of the plane after it landed at 1:50 p.m. The airline and at least a half-dozen others, including the national airline, canceled flights to and from Baghdad on Tuesday. Officials did not say who had carried out the shooting, and there were no immediate claims of responsibility.

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Iraq’s ISIS fight could be a second “awakening”

Jonathan Broder writes for Newsweek:

Just before Christmas, Atheel al-Nujaifi, a leading Iraqi politician, quietly slipped into Washington, D.C., with an urgent request that the White House provide arms and training for his 10,000-man Sunni militia. For seven months now, the United States has been bombing Iraq and Syria, trying to beat back the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). But dislodging the world’s most notorious jihadist group hasn’t been easy, and Nujaifi was offering to help. The governor of Iraq's Nineveh province, he was forced to flee last summer when ISIS militants overran the country’s Sunni-dominated north and west. In meetings with American officials, Nujaifi warneda that unless the United States and its allies can quickly liberate the parts of Iraq under ISIS control, people there may soon learn to live with the militants. “Time,” he said, “is not on our side.”

Other Sunni leaders appear to be following his lead and asking the U.S. to support their militias, which they claim are willing to take up arms against the jihadist group. The White House is still weighing Nujaifi’s request, but in a sign of where things may be headed, U.S. and Canadian special forces are training some 5,000 former Sunni policemen from Mosul at a camp that Nujaifi set up near Erbil, in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.John

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Iraq oil surge to fan OPEC rivalry that triggered slump

Grant Smith writes for Bloomberg:

The battle for customers among OPEC members that helped trigger oil’s collapse is about to escalate. Iraqi crude production is climbing from a 35-year high as it adds growing Kurdish supplies to its exports, while southern oilfields remain unscathed by ISIS militants. Finding buyers for the new output means offering more attractive terms than rivals in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, say Citigroup Inc., DNB ASA and Barclays Plc.

Oil’s biggest slump in six years gained momentum in October as a wave of discounts by Middle Eastern producers signaled OPEC members were intent on defending market share against booming shale output from the U.S. The price of Saudi crude for Asian buyers was cut to the lowest in at least 14 years last month, a move followed by Iraq, Kuwait and Iran. “This price war is not just between Saudi Arabia and the U.S., it’s also intra-OPEC,” said Seth Kleinman, head of European energy research at Citigroup in London. “Iraq and the UAE and everyone else is cutting prices to defend their own market share. Iraq is ramping up production and has rising volumes to move.”


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