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

Iraqi widows, mothers and girls face heightened risks in displaced camps

Sofia Barbarani writes for Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Fearing for the safety of her four children in battles between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants, Umm Rayyad left everything she once owned and last month fled her hometown of Khurbardan, in northern Iraq.

The start of a military campaign to retake Iraq's second-largest city Mosul has seen the Iraqi army pushing westward towards the Tigris River. The northern city has been controlled by Islamic State, also known as ISIS, since June 2014.

Clashes between the two sides have caused a fresh wave of displacement with 2,000 civilians forced from their home since the latest escalation in violence on March 24.

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Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitaries say will join offensive to retake Mosul

Maher Chmaytelli writes for Reuters:

An Iraqi Shi'ite paramilitary group said it will join government forces preparing to fight Islamic State for Mosul despite objections of politicians who fear this could instigate sectarian bloodshed in the mostly Sunni Muslim city.

A much-touted government offensive to retake Iraq's largest northern city two years after its seizure by the Sunni Islamist insurgents has made a faltering start, casting doubt on the army's ability to do so without more ground support.

The campaign will require the participation of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a coalition of mostly Shi'ite Muslim militias, said a spokesman for Asaib Ahl al-Haq, one of its most powerful factions.

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The Islamic State’s Scorched Earth Strategy

Peter Schwartzstein writes for Foreign Policy:

From the moment Islamic State fighters surged into the Iraqi city of Mosul and then pushed deep into Kurdish-held territory in the summer of 2014, residents of Dibis have looked at their prized forest as more of a curse than a blessing.

This village, located in the hills southeast of the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil, once used the forest as a picnicking spot. Now, its dense foliage was being used by jihadis for attacks on the town. Local peshmerga commanders feared their foes might replicate tactics they’d used elsewhere, torching trees to shroud their target in smoke, rendering airstrikes useless.

The town’s defenders were right — the jihadis would eventually use the forest as a weapon. But their strategy was different than what the peshmerga expected: Rather than use the foliage as cover for a military advance, Islamic State fighters used it as part of a scorched-earth strategy designed to make the area unlivable for its inhabitants.

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Remembering the Kurdish uprising of 1991

BBC News reports:

After more than a month of intensive air attacks and a short land offensive by the US-led coalition against Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the Gulf War of 1991 drew to a close. The goal to liberate Kuwait following Iraq's invasion in August the previous year had been met, yet Saddam remained in power and turned his wrath on the Kurd and Shia communities.

Photographer Richard Wayman had worked with many of the Kurdish groups active in Iraq and Turkey during the 1980s and decided he needed to be there. Here, he recounts his time covering the uprising of 1991.

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Iraq to lower oil price forecast to $32 a barrel in 2016 budget

Stephen Kalin reports for Reuters:

Iraq plans to lower the oil price forecast in its 2016 budget to about $32 a barrel from $45, widening its fiscal deficit by several billion dollars, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a senior government official told Reuters.

The new price estimate is based on the continued low level of global oil prices in recent months, said Marwa al-Nasaa, Amman-based IMF resident representative for Iraq.

"We're setting it closer to $30 based on the climate of international futures prices since November," she told Reuters on Thursday.

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The Pigeon Boy and Other Forgotten Fugitives from ISIS

Robin Wright reports for The New Yorker:

Mohammed Hussein, a six-year-old Iraqi boy, was born with a condition known as glanular hypospadias, in which the opening for the urethra is not in its usual place at the tip of the penis. When his father, Saad Hussein, pulled the child’s trousers down to show me, his mother and five sisters seemed unsurprised. Need had long ago superseded modesty. We were clustered together on the floor of a small tent in Baharka, a camp outside Erbil, in northern Iraq, for people who have fled ISIS but who haven’t left the country. The family has been quartered there for almost two years.

The Husseins left their home, in Hamdani, just after 3 A.M. in early August, 2014, after shouts from the street warned that ISIS had entered the village. Tales of what ISIS fighters were doing to women and girls—rape, forced marriage—preceded the invasion. Saad, a taxi-driver, wanted to get his family out as fast as possible. They departed with almost nothing.

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Inside ISIS territory: Horrors of life as a human shield

Arwa Damon and Hamdi Alkhshali report for CNN:

When ISIS came to Abu Israa's village, he did not flee.

His mother is elderly and can barely walk, and so when the militants urged people to stay, his family chose to remain in their home.

At first, ISIS's fighters promised they would keep to themselves. But soon life in the village, in Nineveh province, had become a living hell, with brutal punishments and fines meted out for minor infractions, and the constant threat of execution hanging over the population.

Abu Israa (not his real name) says the militants used him and other civilians as human shields, and would not allow them to leave.

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Iraq: Fallujah Siege Starving Population

Human Rights Watch reports:

Residents of the besieged city of Fallujah are starving. Iraqi government forces should urgently allow aid to enter the city, and the extremist group Islamic State, also known as ISIS, which captured the city in early 2014, should allow civilians to leave.

“The people of Fallujah are besieged by the government, trapped by ISIS, and are starving,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “The warring parties should make sure that aid reaches the civilian population.”

Since government forces recaptured nearby Ramadi, the capital of Anbar governorate, in late December 2015, and the al-Jazira desert area north of Fallujah in March 2016, they have cut off supply routes into the city, three Iraqi officials said. Tens of thousands of civilians from an original population of more than 300,000 remain inside the city.

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Why Iraqi-Saudi ties are backsliding yet again

Mustafa Saadoun writes for Al-Monitor:

Iraq is facing a new crisis with Saudi Arabia as a result of their differing points of view regarding regional issues, most notably those related to Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which was recently classified by the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as a terrorist organization.

The crisis started March 11 when Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari dropped a bombshell during the Arab League meetings in Cairo. He said, “Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units and Lebanon’s Hezbollah preserved the dignity of the Arabs. Those accusing them of terrorism are the terrorists.”

The Saudi delegation withdrew from the meeting, but returned after Jaafari finished speaking.

Tense Saudi-Iranian ties were already affecting the whole region. In a Jan. 19 article by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia accused Iran of “supporting all radical and violent groups, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen and sectarian militias in Iraq.”

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U.S., Iran keep Iraqi PM in place as he challenges ruling elite

Stephen Kalin and Maher Chmaytelli report for Reuters:

The United States and Iran have formed an unlikely tacit alliance behind Iraq's prime minister as he challenges the ruling elite with plans for a non-political cabinet to fight corruption undermining the OPEC nation's economic and political stability.

Local calls for Haider al-Abadi's removal -- including one by his predecessor as prime minister Nuri al-Maliki -- had been growing as he pursued a reshuffle aimed at addressing graft, which became a major issue after oil prices collapsed in 2014 and strained the government's finances as it launched a costly campaign against Islamic State.

However, the two old adversaries -- Washington and Tehran -- put pressure on their respective allies in Iraq not to unseat Abadi as he seeks to fill the council of ministers with technocrats, according to politicians, diplomats and analysts.

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