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

War-torn Iraq is the world’s most generous country to strangers

Ishaan Tharoor writes for The Washington Post:

In the midst of war, political chaos and a regional refugee crisis, Iraq still managed to be the world's most generous country to strangers in 2016, according to an annual global survey of charitable giving.

Eighty-one percent of Iraqi respondents reported helping someone they didn't know in the month before the study was conducted. The global poll was carried out by Gallup on behalf of Britain-based Charities Aid Foundation, or CAF, which has put out an index ranking 140 countries around the world on their generosity every year since 2010.

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Islamic State atrocities reported around Mosul, says UN

Kareem Shaheen reports for The Guardian:

Fresh evidence of atrocities and human rights abuses by Islamic State in and around Mosul have emerged, including massacres and sexual enslavement.

As coalition troops converged on the Iraqi city, the UN highlighted preliminary reports of mass killings in the surrounding areas, the latest in a long line of crimes against humanity – including the attempted genocide of religious minorities and dissidents, and broadscale sexual enslavement – that have come to characterise Isis’s activities in Syria and Iraq.

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Mosul battle: Four ways IS is fighting back

Richard Galpin writes for BBC News:

After more than a week of fighting, the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces are now getting close to the eastern outskirts of Mosul, the last city in Iraq still under the control of so-called Islamic State (IS).

The Iraqi authorities hope the joint offensive will succeed in pushing IS out of the city, which would be a crushing defeat for the militants and leave them with very little territory in Iraq.

But over the past week IS has been hitting back hard on the battlefield, and in various towns and cities.

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Ferocity of Kirkuk attack points to tough fight for Mosul

Babak Dehghanpisheh and Michael Georgy write for Reuters:

At least 100 fighters sneaked into Kirkuk in the early hours of Friday with machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, suicide vests and a message: "Islamic State has taken over."

By the time they had blasted their way across the city in a brazen and complex attack, 99 civilians and members of the security forces were dead and 63 of their own were in the morgue, according to Iraqi security officials.

The scale of the operation - the largest of several by Islamic State to divert an advance on their stronghold in Mosul - shows how tough the battle for Mosul may become and points to a continued ability of the militant group to undermine security across the country even if its northern bastion falls.

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Turkey’s complex reasons for fighting in Syria and Iraq

Ivan Watson, Isil Sariyuce, and Mohammed Eyad Kourdi write for CNN:

For months, the US has been building up an alliance in the Middle East aimed at dislodging ISIS from its strongholds in both Iraq and Syria.

But these efforts have been complicated in recent weeks by one of Washington's oldest allies in the region: Turkey.

The Turkish government is lashing out against factions currently battling ISIS. Ankara has been engaged in a very public war of words with the government in Iraq. At the same time, the Turkish military has been bombing US-backed Kurdish militants in Syria.

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The Worst Is Yet To Come in Mosul, US Leaders Say

Kevin Baron writes for Defense One:

The battle for Mosul has seen snipers, car bombs, missiles, oil-filled moats waiting for the torch, secret village-to-village tunnels, and a burning sulfur plant — and yet U.S. war leaders here warn that this is the light stuff. With each advance of Iraqi, Kurdish, and American forces, ISIS resistance is hardening.

In other words, things are going exactly as expected. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commanding general of coalition forces in Iraq, said they are pleased with how Iraqi, Kurdish, and American forces have positioned themselves in early fighting on Mosul’s outskirts. The anti-ISIS forces have squeezed an estimated 7,000 ISIS insurgents into their stronghold for a fight they predict will intensify with each kilometer.

“So far, it is proceeding according to our plan,” Carter said at Baghdad International Airport after a daylong visit with American commanders, Iraqi leaders, United Nations, and State Department officials in the city’s secure Green Zone. But there’s a feeling this week’s advances were all a setup for something much deadlier to come. “We’ve got tough fighting ahead,” he said.

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US Special Operators Accelerate Killings of ISIS Leaders

Kevin Baron writes for Defense One:

U.S. special operators in northern Iraq and Syria are killing Islamic State leaders at a faster pace, disrupting the organization’s defense of Mosul and, more importantly to Pentagon leaders, their ability to plot attacks against the United States and other targets outside the region.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a Sunday visit with American and coalition forces at the Joint Operations Center in Erbil, the Kurdish capital in northern Iraq, said he commended American fighters here who are supporting “elements in Syria” and working to envelop Raqqa. Quickening the pace of targeting ISIS leaders, known in military parlance as “high-value targets” or “high-value individuals,” has hurt the terrorist group’s ability to launch external “attacks aimed at our own people, our own country, and friends and allies,” he said.

“That remains our highest priority, always,” Carter said, “those external operations.”

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Iraq: Investigate Mosque Strike That Killed Civilians

Human Rights Watch reports:

An attack on October 21, 2016, hit the women’s side of al-Khanli mosque in Daquq, 30 kilometers south of Kirkuk, Iraq, killing at least 13 women and children. The strike on the mosque, filled with mourners observing the Muslim holy month of Moharram, occurred without apparent military targets in the vicinity, residents told Human Rights Watch.

A resident and a police officer told Human Rights Watch that they believed the attack on the mosque, which also wounded at least 45 people, was an airstrike because of the sound of aircraft and scale of destruction. Of the troops fighting for the Iraqi city of Mosul, only United States-led coalition forces in Iraq and the Iraqi air force are known to conduct airstrikes in this region. Media outlets have also reported this as an airstrike, likely carried out by the coalition, but a coalition spokesperson denied that they were responsible for the attack and the civilian casualties.

“Even in the heat of battle, armed forces should take all feasible precautions to avoid harming civilians,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director. “Iraqi forces should investigate whether this was a possible unlawful airstrike that killed civilians and report their findings. If this turns out to be their fault, they should take appropriate measures to compensate the victims.”

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Isis unleashes lasting revenge as Iraqi forces advance on Mosul

Erika Solomon writes for Financial Times:

The sky is dark and heavy at noon in Qayyara, where oil wells have been burning since Iraqi forces pushed Isis out weeks ago. The jihadi militants may no longer control the town, but they unleashed a lasting revenge by setting the wells ablaze.

Every few hours, when the wind shifts, the black smoke billowing across the sky from the wells is mingled with an effusion of white — clouds of sulphur that are spreading from the Mishraq plant near Mosul, the last Iraqi city still under Isis control.

Just as they did with the oil wells, the extremists set the plant alight before they withdrew, underlining the scale of destruction Isis is leaving in its wake as Iraqi forces advance on Mosul. As well as its extensive use of explosive devices and suicide bombs, Isis has been setting fire to factories and oil wells to help cover its retreat. Such tactics are aimed not only at slowing Iraqi forces but also obscuring the targeting of coalition war planes.

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Iraqi parliament tries to ban booze in surprise vote

AP reports:

Iraq’s parliament has passed a law forbidding the import, production or selling of alcoholic beverages in a surprise move that angered many in the country’s Christian community who rely on the business.

The law, passed late Saturday night, imposes a fine of up to 25 million Iraqi dinars, or $21,000, for anyone violating the ban. But it’s unclear how strictly the law would be enforced, and it could be struck down by the supreme court.

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