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

On calm campus in northern Iraq, uneasy thoughts of Baghdad

Scott Peterson reports for the Christian Science Monitor:

Each bombing in Baghdad brings a surge of dread, uncertainty, and even guilt to Amal Methboub, a university student in Iraq’s relatively peaceful north.

Many of those explosions target Amal’s home district of Karrada, where the fourth-year student’s seven siblings and widowed mother eke out a living.

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Iraq unrest ‘kills nine’ as votes are counted

Agence France-Presse reports:

Attacks and shelling in Baghdad and northern and western Iraq killed nine people on Monday, officials said, as electoral authorities counted ballot papers from last week's general election.

The bloodshed is the latest in a protracted surge in unrest that the government has blamed on external factors such as the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

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Dozens dead in continuing Iraq violence

Al Jazeera reports:

Violence in Iraq, including shelling in a rebel-held city and an attack targeting Shia pilgrims, has killed more than 30 people in 24 hours, officials have said.

It came as officials counted ballots from the April 30 general election, the first since US troops withdrew in late 2011, and amid a protracted surge in nationwide unrest that has sparked fears of a return to the large-scale sectarian killing sprees of 2006-2007.

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After the voting, the scavenging by deprived Iraqis

Ammar Karim and Nafia Abdul Jabbar report for Agence France Presse:

Minutes after polls closed in Iraq's parliamentary election and vote counting began, another operation quietly shifted into gear -- scavengers began tearing down election posters across Baghdad.

Motivated neither by malice nor by politics, the relatively poor Iraqis were trying to grab as many of the giant-sized iron frames on which the posters were displayed as possible, either to recycle or to sell on.

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Alas, Iraq’s election may make little difference

The Economist writes:

On April 30th, Nuri al-Maliki stepped behind a cardboard voting booth in a hotel ballroom in Baghdad, cast his ballot and raised a triumphant finger dipped in purple ink, urging other Iraqis to head for the polls, too. But this was in the relative safety of the fortified “green zone”, the government area which, he fears, is the ultimate target of opposition fighters now proliferating to the west and north of the capital. Elsewhere in Iraq the election took place amid bombs and bitter sectarian animosity between Sunni and Shia politicians. Even if most Iraqis managed to vote, there was no sign of this gulf being bridged. The dour, authoritarian Mr Maliki seems bent on keeping an almost exclusively Shia grip on Iraq.

Since January the security forces have lost control of large chunks of Anbar province, west of Baghdad, to aggrieved Sunni fighters, some of them proclaiming allegiance to al-Qaeda, who complain that Mr Maliki, a Shia, has imprisoned, killed and squeezed them out of public life since he was elected eight years ago. In the run-up to the election, the noise of suicide-bombings and other attacks on security forces and polling stations has reverberated in and around Baghdad. Violence has also afflicted the mixed Sunni-Shia provinces of Diyala and Salaheddin, just north of the capital, and Nineveh, a largely Sunni province surrounding Mosul farther north.

 

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What every American needs to know about Iraq’s election

Vivian Salama writes for Policy Mic:

In some ways, it was not unlike many local elections in the United States. For weeks, Iraqis have been inundated by campaign posters, commercials, political talk shows and more.

In some cities, it was hard to look anywhere without seeing the face of a parliamentary hopeful — some whose names will soon disappear, while others will linger. But war-weary Iraqis also face the daily nightmare of suicide and car bombings, where the mere proximity to political offices or police barracks puts them at grave risk.

This is Iraq in 2014.

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Saudi Arabia’s sectarian policies behind resurgence of al-Qaida in Iraq

Zayd Alisa writes in the Diplomatic Courier:

More than two years after the U.S. withdrawal and nearly a decade after the U.S. forces ousted Al Qaida in Iraq (AQI) from Fallujah, Iraq is still grappling with an escalating sectarian crisis between the Shia-led government, but also an increasingly disaffected Sunni minority. Even more menacingly, however, AQI has rebelled itself as the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIS) and has taken over of parts of Ramadi and Fallujah in the notoriously rebellious Sunni-dominated Anbar province. While the Iraqi army managed to regain parts of the provincial capital, Ramadi, it has so far failed to make any headway in Fallujah.

Although Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has repeatedly warned that the army was on the verge of storming Fallujah, he has so far refrained, fearing that civilian casualties would trigger a fierce backlash by tribal leaders backing the army. Maliki, asserted on February 5th that the only way to avoid a full-scale assault was accepting an amnesty declared on February 9th by Anbar’s Governor, Ahmed al Dulaimi. This amnesty offered militants one week to lay down their weapons. But despite the end of the deadline, military action has not yet materialized.

 

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Iraq: A proxy battleground in a regional war

BBC News reports:

Sectarian violence in Iraq is at some of its highest levels for years - and there is evidence the country is becoming a battleground for regional players in a wider struggle for supremacy, as the BBC's Nahed Abouzeid reports from Baghdad.

When I met "Abou Ali" for the first time, it was after a drawn-out process of exchanging messages through a third party to arrange the time and place.

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Iraq’s displaced, from Anbar to Kurdistan

Jenna Krajeski writes in the New Yorker:

On Wednesday, as Iraqis lined up to vote in parliamentary elections—the first since the withdrawal of U.S. forces, in 2011—many were far from home, scattered across the country by a new wave of violence. For tens of thousands of families from Anbar Province, where fighting between Iraqi security forces and Al Qaeda-inspired militants has raged since September, this sense of displacement is particularly profound, because they have taken refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan, the country’s autonomous northern region, which was once a retreat for American soldiers and is still touted as the war’s great success story.

While Anbar is mired in violence, Kurdistan is building hotels and courting international oil companies to explore its untapped reserves. As Iraqis wonder aloud whether a newly elected parliament can decrease sectarian violence, Kurdish politicians have been campaigning on promises of independence from Iraq.

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Maliki launches post-election bid to keep power

Ned Parker and Raheem Salman report for Reuters:

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki launched his post-election bid to hold on to power for a third term on Thursday, saying Iraq had "paid the price in blood" for disunity and calling on rivals to back his bloc to lead the country.

Iraq held a democratic national vote in the absence of foreign troops for the first time ever on Wednesday, despite levels of violence unseen since the darkest days of its 2005-08 civil war and a revived al Qaeda-inspired Sunni insurgency.

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