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

Resentment festers in Mosul: just ask Saddam Hussein

Ulf Laessing writes for Reuters:

If you want to hear the resentment people of Mosul feel now that Iraqi forces have driven Islamic State out of most of the city, you should talk to Saddam Hussein... not the dictator, but the Mosul schoolteacher, who proudly shows off an identity card bearing the name which his parents gave him in the ruler's honor 45 years ago, and which he passed on to his sons.

The original Saddam, a Sunni Muslim who was toppled in a U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and hanged three years later on an Iraqi army base for crimes against humanity, is a hate figure to the Shi'ites who make up the majority of Iraqis, violently repressed under his rule.

But here in Mosul, where most people are Sunnis who feel disrespected by the authorities in Baghdad, he is still beloved, just one example of the many ways in which the local narrative veers sharply from that of most of the rest of the country.

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Civilian casualties from airstrikes grow in Iraq and Syria. But few are ever investigated

Molly Hennessy-Fiske and W.J. Hennigan report for LA Times:

A recent airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq is believed to have caused more than 270 civilian deaths, a tragedy that provoked an international outpouring of grief and outrage.

But the uproar over the March 17 deaths in the Jadidah neighborhood of Mosul masks a grim reality: Hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of other civilians have died in hundreds of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria during the war against Islamic State, and it appears likely that the vast majority of those deaths were never investigated by the U.S. military or its coalition partners.

It also appears that the number of civilian casualties has risen in recent months as combat has shifted to densely populated west Mosul and the coalition has undertaken the heaviest bombing since the war began almost three years ago.

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Iraqi Violinist Plays in Mosul as Troops Battle ISIS

Reuters reports:

Amid the bombed-out ruins of an ancient site revered by both Muslims and Christians in Mosul, Iraqi violinist Ameen Mukdad on Wednesday held a small concert in the city he was forced to flee by ISIS militants.

As Mukdad played scores he had composed in secret while living under the militants' austere rule, explosions and gunfire could be heard from Mosul's western districts where U.S.-backed forces are still battling ISIS for control.

"This is a place for all, not just one sect. Daesh represents no religion but is an ideology that suppresses freedom," Mukdad told Reuters, using a derogatory name for the militants. "Everything about Daesh is wrong."

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Qatari royals among 26 hostages released in Iraq

Becky Anderson, Sarah Sirgany and Hilary Clarke report for CNN:

Members of the Qatari royal family held hostage in Iraq since 2015 were among 26 Qataris released on Friday, a Qatari source told CNN.

A Qatari plane carrying a 14-member delegation had been standing by at Baghdad International Airport to take them home, an airport official said. The Iraqi Interior Ministry said all 26 had left the country on Friday afternoon.

Media reports have connected the fate of the hostages to a complex deal, brokered in part by the Qatari government, to evacuate four besieged towns in Syria.

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Iraq’s Shi’ite ruling coalition opposes Kurds’ independence referendum

Mahmoud Mourad and Ulf Laessing report for Reuters:

Iraq's Shi'ite ruling coalition would oppose Kurdish plans to hold a referendum on independence after the defeat of Islamic State, its president, Ammar al-Hakim, has said.

Speaking to Reuters in an interview in Cairo, Hakim advised the Kurds against any unilateral move to annex a disputed oil-rich region which they had gained during the war against the jihadists.

"If this referendum happens, it will be unilateral," said Hakim, who is president of the National Alliance, a coalition of the main Shi'ite political groups including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's Dawa party.

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Sombre mood as Iraq’s Yazidis mark New Year

AFP reports:

Thousands of Yazidis flocked to a shrine in northern Iraq to mark the New Year on Wednesday, in their biggest gathering since they became victims of mass murder by ISIL.

The event, known by the ethno-religious minority as "Carsama Sari Sali", is meant to commemorate the creation of the universe by the angels and celebrate nature and fertility.

But the mood was sombre among the faithful, every one of whom was affected by the violence that erupted nearly three years ago when ISIL took over their traditional homeland.

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Revenge or Reconciliation — The Future of Mosul

Jamie Dettmer writes for Voice of America:

With Iraqi forces closing in on the last redoubts of Islamic State fighters in the western half of Mosul, questions about a post-IS city are becoming more urgent.

What tactics the terror group could adopt after losing control of Mosul is a key question — and will partly shape how politicians in Baghdad decide to govern Iraq's second-largest city. The consequences could be fateful.

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Revolutionary Guard general takes over as new Iranian ambassador in Iraq

Reuters reports:

A general from Iran's Revolutionary Guards assumed the post of ambassador to Iraq on Wednesday, in a sign of the key role the military force is currently playing in its neighboring country.

Iraj Masjedi previously worked as adviser to Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, according to the Tasnim news site. Soleimani is head of the Quds Force, the branch of the Revolutionary Guards responsible for operations outside of Iran.

Since Islamic State took control of swathes of Iraq in 2014, Soleimani worked with top Iraqi security officials to fight the militant Islamist group, primarily through a Shi'ite volunteer force known as Popular Mobilization Units.

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US Trying to Determine What Chemical IS Used in Iraq Attack

AP reports:

The U.S. military is trying to determine what chemical the Islamic State group used against Iraqi government forces last weekend, the commander of anti-IS coalition ground forces said Wednesday.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin told reporters via video link from Baghdad that Iraqi forces were treated after a strike in western Mosul. He said no one was "significantly impacted."

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has said IS militants previously have used sulfur mustard gas. Wilson said that in the past, IS has demonstrated a "low-grade capability" with chemical weapons.

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Mosul, ‘Pearl of the North,’ Fought Over for Centuries

Jamie Dettmer writes for Voice of America:

Mosul traces its history to the 25th century B.C., and for 13 centuries it was ruled by Assyrians, becoming at one time an even grander city than Babylon.

Then known as Nineveh, and located 30 kilometers north of modern Mosul, it was a key city in Mesopotamia, a cradle of civilization that is credited with such profound developments as the invention of the wheel, the first planting of cereal crops and the first use of cursive script. The origins of modern medicine and mathematics can be traced to the city. Early Sumerian inhabitants were among the first to pose existential questions such as: Who are we? Where are we? How did we get here? These helped to shape ancient Greek philosophy and, subsequently, our modern world.

But the Pearl of the North, like the whole of Mesopotamia, has also seen more than its share of devastating wars that pitted tribes, races, religions, countries and empires against each other in terrible cycles of conflict, revenge and retaliation. The word Mosul means "linking point" and, sitting astride a route linking northern Mesopotamia with Anatolia, it has lured conquering armies.

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