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

To Mosul and back: Sunni Arabs seek place in a shifting Iraq

John Davison writes for Reuters:

When Kurdish forces began rounding up his relatives and friends, 23-year-old Iraqi Omar Abdallah fled with his pregnant wife and four brothers to Mosul. At the time, life under Islamic State seemed preferable for the Sunni Arab to indefinite detention.

That was shortly after the ultra-hardline Sunni group captured large areas of northern Iraq in the summer in 2014, and despite its reputation for brutality, Abdallah says it remained a relatively unknown quantity to his family.

Now, Abdallah, Maha and their two infant children have fled again. They huddle in the desert a short distance northeast of Mosul, Iraq's second city, where government forces are fighting to drive out Islamic State in an offensive involving Kurdish fighters and Shi'ite militias.

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Talk radio station broadcasts emotional voices of Iraqis trapped by ISIS in Mosul

William Booth and Aaso Ameen Shwan write for The Washington Post:

The listeners who call in to Radio Alghad are typical of talk-radio audiences around the world. It’s complain, complain. Except the callers to “Radio Tomorrow” are in the Islamic State-controlled city of Mosul, and they don’t want to yak about traffic or sports.

They want to unload on suicide bombers and errant airstrikes, on the lack of food and medicine. They have questions about when to wave white flags and what to do with bodies in the rubble.

On calls made from the front lines in Mosul, Radio Alghad listeners can hear artillery rounds falling as the government battles to retake the city. They can hear windows rattling, bursts of gunfire, children crying in a backroom.

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IS Attacks in Mosul as Poor Visibility Slows Iraqi Advance

AP reports:

Cloudy skies neutralized air power in Mosul on Thursday, Iraqi forces said, hampering their advance in the northern city, although they still faced deadly attacks by Islamic State militants that killed seven civilians and two soldiers.

The civilians were killed and 35 others were wounded when militants fired mortar rounds on government-controlled areas of eastern Mosul, said army medic Bashir Jabar, who is in charge of a field clinic run by the special forces.

A soldier was killed and three were wounded when a car packed with explosives sped out from its hiding spot in a school complex in the eastern Tahrir neighborhood, ramming Iraqi troops' position and exploding into a ball of fire, according to two officers who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

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In battered town seized from IS, Iraq’s Yazidis dream of return

John Davison writes for Reuters:

For the first time since Islamic State militants swept into Bashiqa two years ago forcing him to flee, 61-year-old Barakat has finally found work - on Sunday he will be coming back to help clear debris from the destruction wrought upon his home town.

He and others who have been living in exile gathered in the town on Wednesday, just over a week after Kurdish peshmerga forces drove the jihadists out.

Yazidi, Christian and Muslim former neighbors and old friends kissed and greeted each other. But it will be a long time before they can move back for good.

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Iraqi forces recapture key air base near Mosul

Mohammed Tawfeeq and Ingrid Formanek report for CNN:

Iraqi paramilitary forces have recaptured a strategic airbase outside the northern city of Tal Afar, a spokesman for the Popular Mobilization Forces said.

Ahmed al Assadi acknowledged that militia forces have yet to extinguish some pockets of ISIS resistance inside the airbase, however, saying late Wednesday that mopping-up operations will continue for the next few hours.

Iraq's Joint Operations Command put out a similar statement.

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Hundreds of Police in ISIS Mass Grave

Human Rights Watch reports:

A mass grave discovered near Mosul by Iraqi Security Forces on November 7, 2016, most likely contains the bodies of at least 300 former local police officers executed by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

Witnesses said that they believe that at the end of October, ISIS massacred several hundred former policemen they had been holding as prisoners. The bodies in the grave, 30 kilometers southeast of Mosul, appeared to be of men killed in custody.

“This is another piece of evidence of the horrific mass murder by ISIS of former law enforcement officers in and around Mosul,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “ISIS should be held accountable for these crimes against humanity.”

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Stabilizing Iraq With And Without The Islamic State

Denise Natali writes for War on the Rocks:

The military campaign to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has generated much-needed attention to “day-after” scenarios.  This includes security arrangements for Mosul city and governance structures that address competing territorial claims by diverse ethnic and religious groups in Ninewa province.  Even if Mosul is relatively secured, ISIL remnants will likely go underground, re-integrate into cities and outlying areas, and wage guerilla warfare to destabilize the Iraqi state.  Underlying these threats are ISIL’s root causes — namely Sunni Arab grievances — and the potential for another iteration of this jihadist movement to emerge in the future.  To thwart this outcome, some analysts, media, and officials have proposed different ethno-sectarian solutions such as creating regions based on sects and ethnicity, arming “the Sunnis” and “the Kurds,” and finding ways for “deeply skeptical Sunni territories to support a Shi’ite dominated government.”

These solutions are faulty. As a recent research trip to Iraq confirmed to me, while ethno-sectarianism persists in Iraq, its influence on post-ISIL stabilization should not be overdetermined.  Important shifts have occurred in Iraqi politics and society since the ISIL onslaught in Mosul in June 2014, rendering state partition along ethnic and sectarian lines even less likely today than a decade ago.  Instead, the Iraqi state has broken down into hyper-fragmented entities with their own militias, all of which seek recognition, economic benefits, self-rule, and self-protection within the Iraqi state. ISIL’s consequences include demographic shifts, re-ordering of internal boundaries, and pacts and divisions within and across communities.  Any successful plan to stabilize Iraq must address these developments. At minimum, both policy and plans should enhance Iraqi sovereignty and focus on local governance and security arrangements in official territorial units, rather than particular ethnic and sectarian group interests.

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Foreign medics treat wounded children in Iraq’s Mosul

Maya Gebeily writes for AFP:

Foreign medics are helping Iraqi special forces personnel treat a growing number of children wounded by intense urban warfare inside the jihadist-held city of Mosul.

Three foreign medics working with the Academy of Emergency Medicine, a Slovakian charity, have teamed up with more than a dozen Iraqi special forces medical personnel to treat wounded civilians and soldiers.

Their sparsely equipped field clinic is set up in an open courtyard on the only route out for fleeing civilians.

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Special Report: Under siege in Mosul, Islamic State turns to executions and paranoia

Samia Nakhoul and Michael Georgy report for Reuters:

A few weeks ago, a person inside Mosul began to send text messages to Iraqi military intelligence in Baghdad.

The text message, which Reuters has seen, was one of many describing what was happening inside Islamic State as Iraqi, Kurdish and American troops began their campaign to retake the group's northern Iraqi stronghold of Mosul.

The texts, along with interviews with senior Kurdish officials and recently captured Islamic State fighters, offer an unusually detailed picture of the extremist group and its leader's state of mind as they make what may be their last stand in Iraq. The messages describe a group and its leader that remain lethal, but that are also seized by growing suspicion and paranoia.

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Iraqi Children Return to School in Village Freed of IS Group

AP reports:

Their smiles and eyes wide with anticipation say it all — for the first time in two years, Iraqi children in a village south of Mosul that was freed from the Islamic State group are back in school.

Awsaja, about 48 kilometers (30 miles) from the IS-held city and the ferocious battles underway there between Iraqi forces and IS militants, was reclaimed by the Iraqi military just a few months ago.

Its 700 children have already all registered to attend school. But resources are limited and there are only three teachers on staff.

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