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

Reconstruction Begins on Baghdad Shopping Complex Bombed in July

Ben Kesling writes for The Wall Street Journal:

Government officials on Saturday began the reconstruction process on a central shopping complex weeks after it was destroyed by the deadliest suicide bombing in Iraq in years, amid criticism for their failure to help businesses struggling to rebuild in the busy commercial area.

Mayor Zekra Alwach toured the complex in the central Karrada neighborhood, shortly after trucks began clearing rubble. She promised compensation to victims and government funds to shop owners.

July’s truck bombing struck as streets were packed with revelers breaking fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and was claimed by Islamic State militants. The extremist group regularly stages suicide attacks across the capital, a return to more guerrilla-style tactics as it loses ground on the battlefield.

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Iraqi Forces Push Islamic State Out of Western Iraqi Town

AP reports:

Iraqi forces pushed Islamic State fighters out of a pocket of territory near the key western city of Ramadi on Friday evening, the military said, following a string of recent victories against the Sunni militant group in the sprawling western Anbar desert.

Iraqi forces are now largely moving north, ahead of an eventual push on the country's second-largest city of Mosul, which has been under Islamic State group's control for the past two years. Mosul is also the IS's last remaining urban bastion in Iraq.

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Smithsonian, other agencies protect artifacts in Iraq, Syria

Joe Davidson writes for The Washington Post:

When we think of the war against Islamic State terrorists, the Defense Department, the State Department and the intelligence agencies come to mind.

We should add the Smithsonian Institution to the list.

The Smithsonian, better known for museums ringing the Mall, is one of a half-dozen agencies cited in a Government Accountability Office report on the “Protection of Iraqi and Syrian Antiquities.” Smithsonian experts provide cultural property protection training in countries facing war or natural disasters.

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New UN report lays bare widespread ISIL ‘atrocities’ committed against Yazidis in Iraq

UN News Centre reports:

A new United Nations report lays bare the widespread and systematic manner in which the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, Da’esh) has committed “terrible atrocities” against the Yezidi and other ethnic and religious communities, the UN envoy for Iraq said today, calling for the perpetrators to be fully and properly held to account.

Compiled by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the report details heart-wrenching testimony of Yezidi survivors of ISIL atrocities in Iraq since the attack on Sinjar in August 2014, including accounts of systematic and widespread killings, sexual violence and sexual slavery, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, forced conversions and forced displacement, among other abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law.

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Under the gun

The Economist reports:

"The Lord is my shepherd,” says the psalmist, but Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf is finding it devilishly hard to tend his flock. As archbishop of Mosul’s Syriac Orthodox church, he has been chased out of one of Christianity’s oldest dioceses. Most of his congregation fled when the city was conquered by the jihadists of Islamic State (IS); now he ministers to what is left of it in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region.

Archbishop Nicodemus says he was the last senior churchman to leave Mosul in July 2014. Since then, he says, 32 churches in Mosul and in the surrounding plain of Nineveh have been burnt or put to other uses. His cathedral is now a mosque dedicated to jihad. “For the first time in the history of Christianity, there are no Christians praying in Mosul,” he adds, weeping. “Even under the Mongol hordes and Hulagu Khan [in the 13th century] it wasn’t so bad.”

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Iraq: Cleric’s Call Against Anti-LGBT Violence

Human Rights Watch reports:

State and non-state actors in Iraq should heed the prominent Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s July 2016 statement banning violence against those who do not conform to gender norms.

Since early 2009, Human Rights Watch has documented kidnappings, executions, and torture by militia groups, including al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, of gay men and men perceived to be gay. The killings have continued unabated.

“Finally, the head of one of the groups whose members have carried out serious abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Iraq is condemning these heinous attacks,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “We hope this will change behavior in successors to the Mahdi Army and other ranks, and spur the government to hold accountable those who commit these crimes.”

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Germany resumes weapons deliveries to Kurds in north Iraq

Reuters reports:

The German military on Wednesday said it had resumed deliveries of weapons to Kurdistan after the government of the northern Iraqi region vowed to ensure the arms did not end up on the black market.

A defense ministry spokesman said Germany had delivered 70 tonnes of weapons, including 1,500 rifles, 100 shoulder-fired rockets and three armored vehicles, to the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil on Tuesday.

Germany halted weapons deliveries in January after media reports that some weapons sent to Kurdistan to help it fight Islamic State militants had later been offered for sale on the black market.

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Iraq Opens Airspace To Russia After Iran Deployment

Damien Sharkov writes for Newsweek:

Iraq has allowed the Russian air force to use its airspace if needed during airstrikes on Syria, following Russia’s decision to deploy aircraft to Iraq’s neighbors, Iran, on Tuesday.

Russian government officials have previously not ruled out expanding the bombing campaign on militants from jihadist group Islamic State (ISIS) and others, from Syria to Iraq, though Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said this would require Iraq to ask for the airstrikes first.

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Iraq: Hundreds of thousands more risk displacement sparking fresh humanitarian crisis

Amnesty International reports:

Increased humanitarian assistance is urgently required to alleviate the suffering of millions of Iraqis displaced across the country and to provide basic services to hundreds of thousands of people who are expected to be displaced by military operations to recapture territory controlled by the group calling itself Islamic State (IS), said Amnesty International today following a three-week research trip to the country.

Humanitarian organizations have already been struggling to meet the most basic needs of the more than 3.4 million people who have been forced to flee IS rule and ongoing fighting to recapture IS territory. The impending battle for Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and an IS stronghold, is expected to displace hundreds of thousands more in the coming months.

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Division among Iraq’s Shabak minority reveals Kurdish-Arab land rivalry

Saad Salloum writes for Al-Monitor:

The Shabak community is one of the ethnic minorities in Iraq, speaking a language distinct from Arabic and Kurdish. Its members live on the Ninevah plains with other religious minorities including Christians, Yazidis and Kakais.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced Aug. 10 the end of the first and second phases of the Mosul liberation operations. Since the third and last phase will take place this year, per his previous statements, minorities, especially Shabaks, are afraid of a Kurdish-Arab rivalry around their regions. This conflict will reveal divisions among Shabak leaders over their fate and identity.

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