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

Iraq’s wildlife defender

Matthieu Aikins writes for Mens Journal:

Early one morning in November, Azzam Alwash parks his truck beside a sandy embankment in southern Iraq and climbs down to the water, where his boatman, Abu Haider, is waiting in a narrow wooden skiff. Alwash embraces the old man and bums a cigarette. As Abu Haider steers the boat away from the district capital of Chibayish, kingfishers circle and dive around the marsh; a moorhen runs along the surface and heaves itself aloft. Alwash's laugh cuts through the wind. In cargo pants and hiking boots, with a fitness tracker strapped to his wrist, he looks like a tech entrepreneur on safari. "Can you believe there was nothing here before?" he shouts. "It was all desert!"

 

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How Obama abandoned Iraq

Emma Sky writes for Slate:

As hard as I try to move beyond Iraq, the country still sucks me back. Last June, I tried to cut off completely, heading off on horse back into the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. At one of the shepherds’ lodgings, I was surprised to find access to Wi-Fi. I connected my iPad to download my email and there in my inbox was an email from a U.S. general and a number of media requests for interviews. Mosul had been overrun by ISIS.

I could not stay away. I had to go back to see for myself what was happening. I had first gone to Iraq in 2003, when I responded to the British government’s request for volunteers to help rebuild the country after the fall of the regime and found myself responsible for Kirkuk, trying to diffuse tensions between the different Iraqis scrambling to control the province. During the surge and the drawdown of U.S. forces, I had served as the political adviser to Gen. Ray Odierno. I left with him in September 2010 but had been back to the country a couple of times every year since, unable to let go, unable to stop caring.

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Rival warlords fight side by side against ISIS in Iraq

Charles McDermid and Aso Mohammed write for Newsweek:

Najat Ali Salih is the top Kurdish officer on the Makhmour front about 30km south of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. His peshmerga fighters have suffered near-nightly suicide attacks and car bombs from Isis forces holed up in the nearby Arab city of Hawija for more than six months, most of that time without pay.

Seventeen peshmerga were paraded through the streets of Hawija in cages last month, and corpses dangled from the city’s welcome signs. But Salih, the flinty 45-year-old known affectionately as Ali Fateh, has an air of cool confidence. He gives no rank and eschews a uniform for the traditional garb of the mountain fighter. In equal parts Che Guevara and Don Corleone, Salih is a known as an eye-for-an-eye fighter. Salih says the terrorists aren’t attacking right now, just watching. To clear them out of the city he needs money, heavier guns and air support, and he is extremely unhappy about asking for it.

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ISIS claims blast near U.S. Consulate in Irbil, Iraq

Hamdi Alkhshali reports for CNN:

ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb attack Friday near the U.S. Consulate in the Kurdish Iraqi city of Irbil, according to several Twitter accounts linked to the terror group. The U.S. Consulate was the target of the attack, ISIS said. At least four people were killed and 18 injured, police said. All U.S. Consulate personnel were safe and accounted for following the explosion, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

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Getting ISIS out of Iraq

Robert A. Pape writes in the New York Times:

Despite being criticized for lacking a strategy, the United States and its allies have made significant gains against the Islamic State. Over the past year, the areas it controlled that were most threatening to our regional allies in Iraq and Syria have shrunk by more than a third. The Islamic State’s fighters have been pushed back from the Mosul Dam in Kurdish Iraq, the town of Kobani in Syria, and, most recently, the Iraqi city of Tikrit, making the largest Kurdish and Shiite population centers vastly safer.

After the Obama administration’s announcement of plans to retake Mosul, understanding what works in the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, is crucial. Many question whether the Mosul offensive is feasible. It is — but overall success against the Islamic State depends on the United States sticking to the strategy it has: the hammer and the anvil.

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Iraq’s Assyrians battle ISIS for survival

Nils Metzger reports for CNN:

When ISIS overran their villages near Mosul in August 2014, a small group of Assyrians, a Middle Eastern minority with a history reaching back more than 4,000 years, picked up weapons and formed their own militia: Dwekh Nawsha -- "The Sacrificers."

Assyrians belong to the rapidly dwindling Christian population of Iraq -- recent estimates from CAPNI, the largest Christian relief organization in northern Iraq put the number as low as 300,000 compared with 1.5 million 20 years ago -- and many among them see the fight with ISIS as a final battle for survival against the Islamists.

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Iraq’s leader finds friends in Washington, but faces battles at home

Greg Myer reports for NPR:

When Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi weighs the pros and cons of running such a fractured country, here's the upside: He can count on five separate military groups supporting his battle against the self-declared Islamic State. The downside is that he has limited control of these groups, and of much of his country.

Abadi is in Washington this week, his first visit to the capital since the U.S. launched its bombing campaign last summer against the Islamic State, or ISIS. He's a striking contrast with his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki, whose eight years in power were marked by regular friction with the U.S.

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Iraq fighting triggers humanitarian crisis near Baghdad

Matt Bradley reports for the Wall Street Journal:

Fighting between Islamic State and Iraqi security forces has displaced at least 90,000 civilians in the past several days, the United Nations said on Sunday, as a new humanitarian crisis unfolded on the fringes of the capital.

Thousands of displaced people carried what few belongings they could across a floating bridge that forms the only connection between Anbar province—the heartland of Iraq’s Sunni minority—and Baghdad over the weekend. Most were fleeing the embattled city of Ramadi—Anbar’s provincial capital about 60 miles west of Baghdad.

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Tracking a trail of historical obliteration: ISIS trumpets destruction of Nimrud

Susannah Cullinane, Hamdi Alkhshali and Mohammed Tawfeeq report for CNN:

ISIS continues to bulldoze its way through the cultural heritage of Iraq and Syria, releasing a new propaganda video showing its fighters destroying Iraq's ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in March. Nimrud lies close to ISIS' main stronghold in Iraq, the northern city of Mosul.

The video, which ISIS posted Saturday, shows militants attacking the more than 3,000-year-old archaeological site with sledgehammers and power tools before finally using explosives to blow it up. The United Nations has previously described such deliberate cultural destruction as a "war crime," but in the Nimrud footage the ISIS militants appear proud of their actions.

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U.N. says Iraq government responsible for protecting journalists

Reuters reports:

The Iraqi government is responsible for protecting foreign and local journalists, the United Nations said on Monday, after the Baghdad bureau chief for Reuters had to leave the country when he was threatened in reaction to a Reuters report. Ned Parker left Iraq last week after he was denounced by a Shi'ite paramilitary group's satellite news channel and threatened on Facebook in reaction to a report that detailed lynching and looting in the city of Tikrit. (reut.rs/1DGja2Q)

"It is incumbent on the Government to do all it can to ensure the protection of domestic and international journalists and media professionals in carrying out their duties, and to send the clear message that threats against media professionals are not acceptable," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

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