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

Iraqis wary of political role for Popular Mobilization Units

Ali Taher writes for Al-Monitor:

The Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in Basra recently gave an old street a new name, Imam Khomeini Street. Naming a street after the leader of the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, is not new in Iraq. The local government in the holy city of Najaf had renamed a street after him in April 2015. The change in Basra, made July 1, sparked controversy and debate on social media because it was done outside legal and administrative procedures. The PMU's apparent usurpation of this power of local authorities and other actions have sparked debate on social media and elsewhere about what this might mean for the future in terms of the PMU's political ambitions and quest for power.

Taleb Abdel Aziz, a journalist from Basra, and Sattar Awad, a professor of philosophy at the Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, expressed concern to Al-Monitor about the implications of the PMU's assertiveness on Iraqis' rights down the road. PMU spokesperson Karim al-Nuri told Al-Monitor that having political ambition is a legitimate goal for PMU militias given their defense of Iraq against the Islamic State (IS).

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Without reforms, protests threaten to escalate in Iraq

Omar Sattar writes for Al-Monitor:

Thousands of supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the civil movement in Baghdad returned to the streets recently to protest delays in reforming a government they say is corrupt and unable to protect its people.

All political channels for reform seem to have reached a dead end in light of the continuing division among political blocs in parliament. During the massive protest July 15 in Tahrir (Liberation) Square in the Iraqi capital, Sadr urged demonstrators to keep protesting until their demands are met.

He called for dismissing all corrupt state officials and those with special privileges, warning that this also applies to the president, prime minister and parliament speaker if they breach their duties and fail to meet reform demands. This is also the objective sought by the parliamentary opposition bloc, the Reform Front.

“The corrupt must be subject to fair trial as soon as possible; otherwise, the people will prosecute them,” Sadr said.

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ISIS Cuts Off Internet In Iraq’s Mosul Ahead Of Siege

Damien Sharkov and Mirren Gidda write for Newsweek :

Members of the Islamic State militant group appear to be attempting to police internet use in the militants’ Iraqi stronghold of Mosul, as anti-ISIS forces prepare to take back the city.

Documents obtained by Newsweek from internet companies in Mosul show an apparent order from ISIS officials in northern Iraq to shut down all internet providers who are not affiliated with the group.

The statement demands that everyone who has a satellite internet receiver hand it over to ISIS militants. Issued by the “Public Security Department” of ISIS, the statement orders that only authorized ISIS internet providers in certain locations are permitted.

Currently, there is no internet connection within Mosul and weak cellular network coverage in a handful of areas near the city’s outskirts.

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Iraq PM accepts resignation of another minister: office

AFP reports:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has accepted the resignation of another minister, his office said on Wednesday, as he seeks to move forward with long-stalled efforts to replace the cabinet.

Abadi agreed "to accept the resignation of Minister of Higher Education Hussein al-Shahristani," his office said in a statement, referring to a long-serving official who has also held positions including deputy prime minister and oil minister.

The statement came a day after the premier's office announced he had accepted five more ministerial resignations, as well as that of the interior minister earlier this month.

But replacing the ministers will likely be a significant challenge, as Abadi has struggled to win parliament's approval for new ministers he has proposed.

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As Mosul fight approaches, worries about the day after

Warren Strobel, Jonathan Landay and Stephen Kalin write for Reuters:

Dozens of defense and foreign ministers will meet in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday to take stock of the fight against Islamic State, their focus increasingly on a major prize: the militant group's bastion in Mosul, Iraq.

The battle for Mosul is expected to be difficult, but the aftermath could be tougher, Iraqi, United Nations and U.S. officials say. Plans are still being finalized to provide urgent humanitarian aid and restore basic services and security for residents and as many as 2.4 million displaced people.

Defense ministers of the anti-Islamic State coalition will meet at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington on Wednesday, followed by a joint session of foreign and defense chiefs on Thursday.

The United Nations is preparing for what it says will be the largest humanitarian relief operation so far this year as terrified people stream out of the path of the advancing Iraqi military and flee from the city itself. They will need shelter, food and water, and sanitation for three to 12 months, depending on the extent of the city's destruction.

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Iraq PM accepts resignation of five new ministers

AFP reports:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has been trying for months to replace the current cabinet, has accepted the resignations of five more ministers, his office said on Tuesday.

Abadi issued orders accepting the resignations of the ministers of oil, transport, housing and construction, water resources and industry, as well as interior, which had been previously announced.

But replacing them will be a major challenge: Abadi struggled to win parliament's approval for even relatively minor ministers, and oil and interior are two of the most powerful ministries in the country.

And while parliament finally approved a few of Abadi's candidates in late April, a court scrapped the session, from which some lawmakers were barred from attending, two months later.

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Islamic State braces for imminent Iraqi siege to retake Mosul

Ammar Al Shamary and Gilgamesh Nabeel write for USA Today:

For months, the Iraqi government has been preparing to launch an offensive to recapture the country's second largest city, Mosul, from the Islamic State. Now, there are clear signs that the militants believe it is imminent.

The extremist group's fighters have sent their wives and children to Syria and Turkey, pulled their black flags from buildings to hide potential airstrike targets for a U.S.-led coalition, planted roadside bombs and set fires to oil wells to stymie Iraqi troops.

The Islamic State “has announced its highest alert,” said Arm Khaled al Obaidi, a Mosul resident and former policemen. “They canceled all leave and demanded fighters on leave return to duty."

This month, Iraqi forces recaptured from the militants an airstrip about 40 miles south of Mosul that  will serve as an important staging area for Iraqi troops. At the same time, the U.S. military said it is sending an additional 560 troops to Iraq for duties that include guarding the air base in anticipation of the long-promised siege.

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Mosul assault in focus two years after Islamic State takeover

Stephen Kalin and Phil Stewart write for Reuters:

When Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi pledged in December that Iraq would retake Islamic State's de facto capital Mosul by the end of 2016, the target was greeted with scepticism by Western allies and officials within his own government.

Less than seven months on, the Iraqi military has recaptured most major militant positions in western Anbar province and advanced toward Mosul, the largest city still under the ultra-hardline group's control across its self-proclaimed caliphate.

Last month's recapture of Falluja, followed swiftly by Qayara airbase 60 km (40 miles) south of Mosul and the announcement of a fresh deployment of U.S. forces, lent momentum to the campaign, which the administration of President Barack Obama would like to finish before January.

"Progress against Daesh (IS) has now put liberation of Mosul strongly on the agenda," the top United Nations official in Iraq said last week.

Abadi, backed by a U.S.-led military coalition, now wants to move on Mosul by October, a senior Baghdad-based diplomat and a Western official said, both declining to be identified.

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Iraq government declares two-day public holiday due to heatwave

AP reports:

The Iraqi government has announced a two-day mandatory official holiday beginning on Wednesday due to a heatwave.

A statement issued by the Iraqi cabinet said temperatures were expected to soar above 50C (122F). It is the first heat advisory issued by the Iraqi government this summer.

The public holiday will apply to all government workers.

High temperatures in summer are common in Iraq, and endemic electricity outages make life harder for Iraqis when temperatures soar. To cope with the heat, Iraqis either stay indoors or swim in rivers. In some public places, showers are set up for those who want to cool down.

It is not uncommon for such public holidays to be declared when heatwaves hit during Iraq’s long, hot summers.

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U.S. says hopes to raise in excess of $2 billion in aid for Iraq

Reuters reports:

The United States expects to raise more than $2 billion this week for war-torn Iraq during a pledging conference in Washington, a senior State Department official said on Monday.

"We're hoping to raise in excess of $2 billion in what has been a roughly six-and-a-half-week pledging effort," the official told reporters ahead of the main pledge session for donor countries on Wednesday.

The Iraq donor meeting of 24 countries is being co-hosted by the United States, Canada, Germany, Japan, Kuwait and the Netherlands.

A broader meeting on a U.S.-led campaign to fight Islamic State militants will be held on Thursday.

The conference is seeking to raise fresh funds to help Iraqi communities get back on their feet once their towns have been recaptured from Islamic State, as well as assist with the clearing of unexploded munitions preventing people from returning home, the official said.

The funds will mainly help deal with Iraq's humanitarian crisis, where more than 3.3 million people have been displaced by conflict, the official added.

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