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

Iraq’s former leader still looms large months after his ouster

Loveday Morris and Liz Sly report for the Washington Post:

Inside the walls of his shaded villa in the heart of Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, Nouri al-Maliki still greets his visitors in the same marble-floored office where he worked for eight years as prime minister.

As one of the country’s three vice presidents, he now holds a largely ceremonial position in the government of his successor, Haidar al-Abadi. But whether Maliki has given up his quest for power is increasingly in question as he sets about widely publicized battlefield tours, meetings with tribal elders and visits abroad.

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Iran claims U.S. airstrikes are killing its men in Iraq

Jamie Dettmer writes for the Daily Beast:

The fragility of the makeshift alliance battling to dislodge the militants of the so-called Islamic State from northwest and central Iraq was highlighted Monday when Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps accused the United States of killing two of its military advisers in a drone strike on the outskirts of the city of Tikrit—an accusation vehemently denied by the Pentagon.

The claim came as U.S. airstrikes in the effort to boost the stalled Iraqi government assault on Tikrit continued to draw the anger of Shia militias that have spearheaded the offensive while the Iraqi army is being reconstituted.

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Iraqi forces take back Tikrit from ISIS, official says

Hamdi Alkhshali and Jomana Karadsheh report for CNN:

Iraqi forces battling to wrest Tikrit from ISIS are now in control of the city, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Tuesday on Iraqiya TV. Al-Abadi, who is also the top military commander, said on state television that the city was liberated.

While al-Abadi has declared victory in the battle, pockets of fighting continues. Iraqi forces and Shiite militias are taking part in clearing operations. Iraqi forces reached the center of Tikrit and hoisted the nation's flag on top of the Governorate Building, al-Abadi said. Fighting continued on the outskirts of the city, he added.

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Shia-Sunni family from Mosul tells of terror under ISIS

Rudaw reports :

A family of Arabs who fled their home in Mosul to escape the Islamic State has relayed tales of brutalities inflicted upon the city’s population by the jihadist occupiers. Since July, the Al-Saraj family has lived safely in Dohuk in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, but they stay in close communication with friends and family inside the extremist group’s so-called caliphate.

The picture they paint of life inside Mosul is grim.Speaking from their home last week, the family said that before ISIS’ June seizure of Mosul, all the city’s ethnic and religious communities—Christian, Kurds, Yazidis, Turkmen, Shia and Sunni—all lived in peace. The family’s composition reflects this. Family patriarch MS is a 55-year-old retired army colonel and a Sunni. His wife, RS, comes from a Shiite family. Both agreed to speak for this story only if their full names were not used.

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The war on ISIS is getting weird in Iraq

Michael B. Kelley writes for Business Insider:

The US has started providing "air strikes, airborne intelligence, and Advise & Assist support to Iraqi security forces headquarters" as Baghdad struggles to drive ISIS militants out of Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. The Iraqi assault has heretofore been spearheaded by Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the head of Iran's Quds Force, the foreign arm of the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and most of the Iraqi forces are members of Shiite militias beholden to Tehran.

The British magazine The Week features Suleimani in bed with Uncle Sam, which is quite striking given that Suleimani directed "a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq," as detailed by Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker.

 

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Iran says US drone kills 2 advisors in Iraq–US denies

Vivian Salama reports for AP:

Iran's Revolutionary Guard says a US drone strike has killed two of its advisers in Iraq, though the US said Monday it had struck only militants in its campaign against the Islamic State group. The claim came as negotiators on Monday attempted to reach a deal on Iran's contested nuclear program, which hard-liners in the Islamic Republic have opposed as giving away too much to the West.

The Guard said on its sepahnews.ir website that the strike happened March 23, just after the US-led coalition began airstrikes to support Iraqi forces trying to retake the Islamic State-held city of Tikrit. It identified the dead as Ali Yazdani and Hadi Jafari, saying they were buried Sunday. It called them advisers, without elaborating on whether Iran contacted Iraqi or US forces after the strike.

 

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U.S., Iranian backed Shiite militias share uneasily in battle for Iraq’s Tikrit

Matt Bradley reports for the Wall Street Journal:

Iranian-backed Shiite militias remained on the front lines of the battle to retake this strategic city from Islamic State days after the U.S. demanded they be sidelined as a condition for joining the fight with airstrikes. The U.S. military has continued to launch airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Tikrit after it became clear that Shiite forces were still playing a central role in the fight and even as each loudly proclaims opposition to the other.

An effective ground force will be essential to turn the airstrikes into a full victory and the U.S. called last week for the militias to stand aside and allow regular Iraqi security forces to take the lead. However, on Saturday, at least some of the Shiite fighters were holding their positions.

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ISIS demands ‘protection tax’ from Mosul residents

Rudaw reports :

Leaders of the Islamic State now in control of Mosul are demanding residents pay a tax of $80 per month for the protection of the extremist group, a member provincial council member has said.

“[ISIS] militants have forced families in Mosul to pay 100,000 dinar [$80] each month, claiming that their gunmen are protecting people so they must pay for the service,” Ibrahim Tati, member of Mosul provincial council, told Rudaw on Friday. “No matter rich or poor, all families are forced to pay the amount required by the militants,” Tati added.

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Baghdad offers cash to families who return to Anbar

Rudaw reports :

Iraq's Council of Ministers has offered up to $4,200 to displaced families who return to war-torn Anbar province, a police spokesman has told Rudaw.

“The Iraqi government will provide a special budget to help refugee families who fled the region after ISIS attacked and now they are coming back to the recaptured areas,” the media officer of said on Friday, adding the government will also offer social services in liberated areas.

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A partitioned Iraq would be a nightmare for Iran

Dina Esfandiary writes for Al Jazeera:

Iran is not a sectarian actor, but Tehran still needs to prove it. Its involvement in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a good opportunity to do so. Iran’s ability to constrain and control Shia militias in the ongoing offensive in Tikrit, Iraq, will determine how Iraqis, regional powers and the rest of the international community view Iran and its policies. If the widely shared fear of a backlash against Sunnis in Iraq materializes, Iran will continue to be a player in the sectarian game despite itself.

Iraq’s stability is an important concern for Iranians, who still remember the two countries’ devastating eight-year war in the 1980s. Iran sees ISIL as a grave threat in its backyard. After initial hesitation over the extent of the ISIL threat, Tehran has transformed the group’s menace into an opportunity. Tehran is providing the Iraqi army with ground assistance to fight ISIL while cementing influence and control over its neighbor.

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