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

Held by IS for 40 days, a Turkish photographer tells his story

Amberin Zaman writes for Al Monitor:

Bunyamin Aygun, an award-winning Turkish photojournalist who was captured by Islamic State (IS) militants last November and held for 40 days, is the first and only journalist held by IS to go public with his ordeal. Aygun’s account, which ran for five days in his newspaper, Milliyet, offers a rare and nuanced glimpse into the murky world of IS. Published in January, the series revealed the heavy presence of Turks in the group and the glaring threat that they pose to their own country. “Turkey is next,” IS fighters repeatedly told the veteran journalist. But the story received scant attention.

In Turkey, a massive corruption scandal implicating Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his close circle held the nation in thrall. The few stories that appeared in Western outlets were short and dry. Aygun had not revealed that his captors were IS at the time. But would it have made much of a difference? Probably not, because Aygun is not a Westerner. He is a Muslim and a Turk. Besides, Mosul had not yet been overrun, nor had all 49 members of the Turkish consulate there been taken hostage by IS. And James Foley’s brutal execution had not yet taken place.


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U.N. to send team to investigate ISIS crimes in Iraq

Stehpanie Nebehay writes for Reuters:

The United Nations agreed on Monday to send investigators to Iraq to examine crimes being committed by ISIS militants on “an unimaginable scale”, with a view to holding perpetrators to account. “We are facing a terrorist monster,” Iraq’s human rights minister, Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani, told the U.N. Human Rights Council which adopted a resolution tabled by Iraq and France at an emergency sitting of the 47-member state forum in Geneva.

The Council aims to send 11 investigators, with a total budget of $1.18 million, to report back by March 2015. ISIS, which declared a “caliphate” in June in parts of Iraq and Syria under its control, has been cited as a major security threat by Western governments since posting a video in August of the beheading of U.S journalist James Foley.

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This is what detente looks like: The United States and Iran join forces against ISIS

Mohsen Milani writes for Foreign Affairs:

It is no particular surprise that U.S. President Barack Obama is on the verge of turning over a new leaf with Iran. After all, over the course of his presidency, Obama has repeatedly emphasized that he would like the United States and Iran to overcome their 35 years of estrangement. What is surprising, however, is how rapprochement has come about -- not through negotiations over the fate of Tehran’s nuclear program, but as a result of the battle against ISIS.

Tehran and Washington find themselves on the same side in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), also called the Islamic State (IS), and there are already signs that they have been cooperating against the extremist group’s advance through Iraq. Although there is no guarantee that this will last for the duration of the war, such cooperation is clearly a positive step.

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ISIS becomes target of Arab satire

AP reports:

The bumbling young militant first drops the rocket launcher on the toes of his boss before taking aim and firing toward a military checkpoint outside of an Iraqi town — not realising he’s fired it backward at his leader. The Looney Tunes-style cartoon targeting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) comes after its militants have swept across large swaths of Syria and Iraq, declaring their own self-styled caliphate while conducting mass shootings of their prisoners.

The group cheers its advances and beheadings in slickly produced internet videos. In response, television networks across the Middle East have begun airing cartoons and comedy programs using satire to criticize the group and its claims of representing Islam.

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PKK forces impress in fight against Islamic State

Mohammed A. Salih writes for Al Monitor:

Ahmed Mohammed was staring at the corpses of two fighters from the Islamic State (IS), dumped in a natural ditch just a short distance from the town of Makhmour, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital city, Erbil.

“We killed seven of them, but just brought back these two bodies to boost up people’s morale here,” said Mohammed, a nom de guerre, with his AK-47 rifle hanging on his shoulder. He was a member of a fighting force in Makhmour affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a rebel group whose guerrillas have honed their skills fighting the Turkish military, NATO’s second-largest, for Kurdish rights for around three decades.



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Iraq retakes more towns from Islamic State

Jane Arraf writes for Al Jazeera:

Iraqi Kurdish forces and Shia armed volunteers have retaken more northern towns from the Islamic State group, killing at least two of its senior fighters, sources have told Al Jazeera. A day after breaking the siege in the town of Amerli north of Baghdad, government forces retook the town of Sulaiman Bek on Monday, removing another key stronghold of the Islamic State group.

Iraqi officials said they killed, Mussab Mamoud, the town's Islamic State head, and Mazen Zaki, the military wing commander, along with more than 20 other Sunni rebel fighters. Iraqi security officials said eight of the fighters were Chechen. They also said the fighters include dozens of nationalities, including experienced Chechen snipers.

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Forgotten in Iraq: Besieged city faces destruction by the Islamic State

Christopher Reuter and Jacob Russel write for Spiegel Online:

"Every day I receive about 100 patients. Every day there is shelling. Some of the injuries are very complicated, legs amputated, head wounds. But I don't have the materials to provide serious treatment. There are cases where I have put patients on the helicopter alive and they die when they get to Baghdad." Dr. Khaldoun Mahmoud speaks extremely rapidly, and with good reason. There is only a single place remaining in the northern Iraqi town of Amirli where he still has a modicum of mobile phone reception: at the helicopter landing pad above the village. And with every call, he is risking his life. Fighters from the Islamic State (IS) have surrounded the town and are just one kilometer away.

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Iraqi Kurds say their fight is against more than just the Islamic State

Eric Cunningham writes for the Washington Post:

Kurdish fighters are struggling to hold on to recent gains against Islamic State militants in Iraq in the face of constant shelling and sniper fire. But Kurds say the jihadists have another weapon: local Arab sympathizers.

The Kurds suspect ethnic Arabs have backed the militants in battles that have raged in Iraq’s north over the past month, including a stunning advance by the jihadists. The fighting has displaced thousands of families in a region long known as a flashpoint for Arab-Kurdish violence. Now many Sunni Arab residents are barred from coming home. “The Arabs here stabbed us in the back, and now they are threatening us” from the villages nearby, a Kurdish intelligence officer, Ahmed Hawleri, said from the front-line district of Gwer.

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Britain raises its terrorism threat level over Iraq, Syria

Michael Holden reports for Reuters:

Britain raised its terrorism alert on Friday to the second-highest level with Prime Minister David Cameron saying the Islamic State (IS) group operating in Syria and Iraq posed the country's greatest ever security risk.

The government said there was no evidence an attack was imminent but the assessment of the latest intelligence by security chiefs justified elevating the international threat level to "severe", meaning a strike was "highly likely". "What we're facing in Iraq now with ISIL (IS) is a greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before," said Cameron, adding he was "absolutely satisfied that ISIL ... would make specific threats to the UK".

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Pentagon: Iraq operations cost $560 million so far

Robert Burns writes for AP:

U.S. military operations in Iraq, including airstrikes and surveillance flights, have cost about $560 million since mid-June, the Pentagon said Friday. Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said the average daily cost has been $7.5 million. He said it began at a much lower rate in June and escalated after the airstrikes in northern Iraq began this month.

After he spoke, the U.S. Central Command announced four additional airstrikes, bringing the total since they began on Aug. 8 to 110. Central Command said Friday's missions by U.S. fighter and attack aircraft destroyed four armed vehicles and three support vehicles in the vicinity of the Mosul Dam. One armed vehicle was damaged, it said without providing more details.

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