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

Partitioning Iraq: Make a Detailed Case, or Cease and Desist

Ben Connable writes for War on the Rocks:

Iraq is once again in political turmoil, and once again we are hearing calls to partition the country into three ethno-sectarian cantonments: Shi’a, Sunni, and Kurd. The partition trope resurfaces periodically, most often while Iraq looks “too hard to fix.” Advocates of partition suggest that Iraq is a false construct of the century-old Sykes-Picot treaty, and that Iraqis are incapable of sustaining a heterogeneous state. Putting aside the fact that the Sykes-Picot narrative is at best contested, it is time to put the partition trope to the test and then, hopefully, to rest. The mostly non-Iraqi voices who want to divide the country into thirds owe the Iraqi people and the rest of the world extensive, detailed clarification. Surely, any plan to drastically restructure Iraq must be more thoughtful and detailed than the widely condemned 2003 plan to invade Iraq. At the very least, advocates for partition should address some fundamental questions. If they cannot answer these satisfactorily then they should pause before reissuing what many Iraqis view as disheartening, and even inflammatory, positions about their state.

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American Mennonites Are Going to Iraq — to Fix Windows

Campbell MacDiarmid writes for Vice:

Chad Martin, a ruddy-faced 22-year-old American, is driving a pickup truck through the rubble-strewn streets of Sinjar, Iraq. Riding shotgun next to him is Eric Detweiler, also 22, from Colon, Michigan.

But they aren't soldiers, or private military contractors, or even civilians who have come to war-ravaged northern Iraq to take part in the fight against Islamic State, as dozens of others have done. They are devout Christians from a Protestant sect known more for shying away from the world than for going out to war zones — but they aren't in Iraq to proselytize in a largely Muslim land, they say.

They are volunteers — and the reason they are here becomes clear when looking at the truck's bed, where Delvin Zimmerman, a 26-year-old from the same church as Martin in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, clutches a large pane of glass. They have come to help rebuild a town destroyed by war.

More than six months after Sinjar was retaken from Islamic State militants, a small group of North American Mennonite volunteers is the only permanent humanitarian presence in this ghost town at the foot of Mount Sinjar.

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Iraq takes aim at media as security forces struggle to contain strife

AP reports:

The Islamic State group has launched a coordinated assault on a natural gas plant north of Baghdad that killed at least 14 people, while a string of other bomb attacks in or close to the capital killed 15 others, Iraqi officials say.

The attack on the gas plant started at dawn with a suicide car bomber hitting the facility's main gate in the town of Taji, about 20 kilometres north of Baghdad.

Several suicide bombers and militants then broke into the plant and clashed with the security forces, an official said, adding that 27 troops were wounded.

The IS-affiliated Aamaq news agency credited a group of "Caliphate soldiers" for the attack.

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Islamic State Shifts Tactics, From War-Fighting to Suicide Bombing

Maria Abi-Habib writes for The Wall Street Journal:

As Islamic State loses territory in the grinding war in the Middle East, it is turning to less elaborate but lethal direct attacks on civilian targets such as this past week's series of deadly suicide bombings in Iraq.

In three straight days of bombings in Baghdad starting on Wednesday, the group killed more than 100 people. In the wake of the terror attacks in Paris in November and Brussels in March, Western and regional officials said they are seeing more signs the militants are morphing back into a guerrilla-style insurgency that relies increasingly on suicide attacks.

Iraq's Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Saad Maan said the latest terror attacks in Iraq stem from Islamic State's need to make an impact away from the battlefield.

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Belgium’s Anti-ISIS Airstrikes Expand From Iraq Into Syria

Alissa J. Rubin writes for The New York Times:

The Belgian government, a member of the American-led coalition that has been bombing Islamic State targets for nearly two years, said Friday that it was expanding Belgium’s airstrikes beyond Iraq into neighboring Syria.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium said the decision to broaden the targets of the six F-16 fighter jets it contributed partly reflected pressure from the coalition.

Mr. Michel’s spokesman, Barend Leyts, said Belgium’s decision also was part of a joint effort with the Netherlands, Belgium’s close ally, to battle the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL. Belgium and the Netherlands take turns in participating in the coalition’s airstrikes.

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Long Road to Recovery for the Victims of Iraq Bombings

Ali Abdul-Hassan writes for AP:

Salam Hussein's father was once his soccer coach. Now he's his physical therapist, hoping that his son will one day be able to walk again.

Hussein was sprayed with shrapnel when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a stadium south of the Iraqi capital where the 23-year-old had been playing for his local club soccer team, Al-Rafidain. Hussein was wounded in the back of his neck, leaving his left arm and leg paralyzed.

While hundreds of Iraqis are killed every month in bombings — 29 died in the March 25 blast in the stadium in Iskandariyah — Hussein's plight underscores the problems faced by the thousands who are left wounded in such attacks, many of them with serious injuries. Iraq's health system is dilapidated, often without facilities for long-term treatment, and there are few services for the disabled, who are often left without freedom of movement and unable to work or attend school.

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Why Shiites are divided over Iranian role in Iraq

Ali Mamouri writes for Al-Monitor:

On the night of April 30, the crowd that stormed the Green Zone gathered in the Great Celebrations Square inside the zone and chanted “Iran Out Out” and “Qasem Soleimani … Sadr is a divine person,” in reference to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. This indicates that feelings and political stances hostile to the policy that Iran has adopted in regard to Iraq since 2003 have been revived among the Shiites.

It is understandable that hatred for Iran prevails within the Iraqi Sunni community, due to sectarian considerations that are influenced by the current sectarian conflict in the region. Hatred for Iran, based on the Arab nationalist considerations hostile to Persian nationalism, which prevailed under the rule of Saddam Hussein, is also understandable.

Yet, what happened in Celebrations Square points to the unique reasons behind the feelings that prevail among the Shiites, which are supposed to be on the side of the Iranians in the current conflict.

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ISIS Kills Dozens in Iraq in New Round of Bombings

Falih Hassan and Omar Al-Jawoshy write for The New York Times:

Islamic State fighters extended their barrage of suicide bombings in Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 20 Iraqi soldiers and tribal fighters outside the western regional capital of Ramadi, and five policemen in a coordinated attack outside the Abu Ghraib district of Baghdad, officials said.

The new attacks came a day after the Sunni terrorist group staged a deadly wave of bombings in Baghdad, including one in which dozens were killed at a crowded market in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City. Even as the Iraqi security forces have made progress in taking back territory from the group in recent months, the Islamic State has seemed to step up its calculated bomb plots.

ISIS militants unleashed a wave of car bombs while fighting against soldiers, policemen and Sunni tribal allies of the government north of Ramadi, in a counteroffensive against Iraqi forces that had taken back that city and other areas of Anbar Province in recent months.

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Iraq says Islamic State control shrinks to 14 percent of its territory

Reuters reports:

Iraq said on Wednesday its U.S.-backed military campaign against Islamic State had retaken around two-thirds of the territory seized by the militants in their lightning sweep across the country's north and west in 2014.

"Daesh's presence in Iraqi cities and provinces has declined. After occupying 40 percent of Iraqi territory, now only 14 percent remains," government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said in a televised statement, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

That calculation appeared rosier than recent estimates from Washington. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Alhurra TV late last month that Islamic State had lost 44 percent of the territory it had held in Iraq.

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Mosul: suspicion and hostility cloud fight to recapture Iraqi city from ISIS

Martin Chulov writes for The Guardian:

At the bottom of a hill near the frontline with Islamic State fighters, the Iraqi army had been digging in. Their white tents stood near the brown earth gouged by the armoured trucks that had carried them there – the closest point to Mosul they had reached before an assault on Iraq’s second largest city.

For a few days early last month, the offensive looked like it already might be under way. But that soon changed when the Iraqis, trained by US forces, were quickly ousted from al-Nasr, the first town they had seized. There were about 25 more small towns and villages, all occupied by Isis, between them and Mosul. And 60 miles to go.

Behind the Iraqis, the Kurdish peshmerga remained dug into positions near the city of Makhmour that had marked the frontline since not long after Mosul was seized in June 2014. The war had been theirs until the national army arrived. The new partnership is not going well.

On both sides, there is a belief that what happens on the road to Mosul will not only define the course of the war but also shape the future of Iraq. And, despite the high stakes, planning for how to take things from here is increasingly clouded by suspicion and enmity.

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