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

The Kurdish Economy Is Rebounding After Three Years Of Instability

Zach D. Huff writes for Forbes Middle East:

Hailed as “the next Dubai,” Iraqi Kurdistan enjoyed breakneck economic growth amid an era of stability and safety.

That was, until the so-called ISIS brought it all to a grinding halt.

New commercial towers and shopping centers began to dot the capital city, trading was set to open at the first Kurdish stock exchange, and the first ski resort had just begun selling season passes.

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Iraq sentences 27 men to death for roles in 2014 Speicher massacre

Jessica Suerth writes for CNN:

Iraq sentenced 27 prisoners to death for their part in a 2014 massacre that killed as many as 1,700 men in ISIS-controlled territory, according to a statement released by Iraq Central Criminal Court.

"The Central Criminal Court issued a verdict to execute 27 defendants convicted of participating in the Speicher massacre," Judge Abdul Sattar al-Beeraqdar, a spokesman for Iraq's Higher Judicial Council, said in a statement released Tuesday.

However, Beeraqdar said the decision is "preliminary and can be appealed."

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Iraq, Saudi Arabia Reopen Land Border and Prepare to Resume Air Links

Edward Yeranian writes for Voice of America:

Saudi Arabia and Iraq say they are in the process of improving relations after the first busloads of Iraqi pilgrims entered the Saudi kingdom through a border crossing at Arar, which had been closed for 27 years. The nations also say that they are resuming air transportation, but have not set a date for the first flights.

Saudi and Iraqi officials embraced each other to celebrate the reopening of their Arar border crossing. A convoy of tour buses carrying more than 1,000 Iraqi pilgrims bound for Mecca entered Saudi territory, amid festivities to welcome them.

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U.S. denies bombing Iraqi Shi’ite militia near Syrian border

Reuters reports:

The U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State on Tuesday denied responsibility for an attack near the Syrian border which killed dozens of members of an Iraqi Shi'ite militia and, that group said, several of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards.

A spokesman for the Iran-backed Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada militia said 36 of its fighters had been killed in the attack on Monday and 75 others were wounded and receiving treatment.

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday that initial investigation showed that Islamic State launched the attack against the militia group.

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Recovery in Iraq’s war-battered Mosul is a ‘tale of two cities,’ UN country coordinator says

UN News reports:

Even as schools and markets begin to re-open in war-torn eastern Mosul, whole neighbourhoods of the western part of the Iraqi city have been destroyed and nearly a quarter of a million people have nowhere to return “anytime soon,” a senior United Nations official said today.

Speaking to the press in Geneva, Lise Grande, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, said the contrast between the east and the west of the city could not be clearer. Indeed: “Everyone's gone home to eastern Mosul except for 20,000 people.”

Yet, the situation is very different in western Mosul, explained Ms. Grande, who is also the Deputy Special Representative of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). “In the 15 completely destroyed neighbourhoods, there are 230,000 civilians who come from those districts who are not coming home anytime soon.”

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Islamic State’s next move could be underground criminal networks

Aisha Ahmad writes for The Washington Post:

After months of fierce ground war, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory last month over the Islamic State in Mosul. Analysts on the ground, however, said the fight is far from over. Already, a new version of the Islamic State is emerging out of the ashes of the Mosul offensive and is quickly adapting to a new form of war. As the caliphate crumbles, the jihad is moving into the criminal underworld.

We have seen this pattern before. In Afghanistan, after the Taliban government lost power in 2002, its fighters took to the mountains and leaned on the heroin industry to finance their insurgency. In Somalia, after Ethiopian-led forces overthrew the Islamic Courts Union government in 2007, al-Shabab extremists tapped the illicit charcoal and smuggling industries to fund its campaign against the African Union. In Mali, after losing control over the northern Azawad region in 2012, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) cashed in on its ties to the lucrative West African cocaine trafficking networks to pay for its war against French-led U.N. peacekeeping forces.

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Iraqi forces start military offensive against ISIL in Tal Afar

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraqi forces along with Shiite militias began storming ISIL’s last haven in Nineveh on Tuesday.

The Iraqi air force launched  air raids against the group in Tal Afar, west of Mosul, in efforts to liberate ISIL’s last stronghold in the country.

Meanwhile, a powerful Iraqi Shiite militia on Tuesday said that at least 40 of its fighters  were killed in an attack the previous day on its positions across the border in Syria. The militia blamed the US-led coalition for the assault but ISIL claimed its fighters had targeted the militiamen.

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UN braces for new evacuations from IS-held parts of Iraq

AP reports:

The U.N.'s humanitarian aid coordinator for Iraq says aid providers are bracing for the possible evacuation of hundreds of thousands of civilians as Iraqi forces prepare for the "imminent" start of three operations against Islamic State holdouts.

Lise Grande says teams are moving to areas near the expected operations in Tal Afar near Mosul; Hawija in Kirkuk province to the southeast and the western Anbar province.

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Tensions build along Iraq-Iran border

Mauricio Morales writes for Al Jazeera:

The Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), which seeks Kurdish autonomy in the country and has been exiled to Iraq, has been intensifying its presence along the border area in recent days.

The separatist group helped to defend northern Iraq against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS), and with the battle for Mosul now over, it is focusing on consolidating its control over parts of the Iraq-Iran border.

Last month, the KDPI and local villagers reported an Iranian shelling attack near the party's bases in Iraq, which they described as an escalation of military operations. The upcoming Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum in September could also change the game in this crucial border area.

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Alarming wave of assassinations hits Iraqi doctors

Rudaw reports:

A spokesperson for Iraq’s Ministry of Health says that the capital Baghdad is experiencing a rising number of assassinations against doctors and health workers in recent days by members of gang groups or in acts of “terrorism”.

“Attacks on doctors have almost become a daily thing,” Saif Badir, Health Ministry’s spokesperson told Rudaw.

Government officials are divided over who might be behind the new wave of killings.

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