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

Crystal meth epidemic forces Basra’s police to pick battles with smugglers

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad writes for The Guardian:

Each Saturday a long line of women dressed in black snakes around the cracked concrete facade of the decrepit Basra police station where the city’s anti-narcotics force has its home. Two police officers are posted to maintain order, but the women – who shelter from the stifling sun in the walls’ narrow shade – are silent and subdued. They patiently wait to visit their sons, husbands and brothers jailed inside.

In the last three years a drugs epidemic has swept through the southern Iraqi city as Iranian-produced krystal – the local name for methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth – floods across the porous border. Police say consumption is doubling year on year as the drug is marketed to both Basra’s impoverished districts where religious militia rule; and its university students, who are sold it as a sexual performance enhancer. The officers tasked to tackle the trade are badly resourced, forced to fund small-scale operations from their salaries and fearful of ambush if they are betrayed.

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IS attack kills nine Iraqis near Jordan border

AFP reports:

Fighters of the Islamic State group attacked an Iraqi border guard base near Jordan on Tuesday, killing at least nine people before being beaten back, officers said.

The early morning attack involved heavy mortar fire and saw clashes between militants and border guards defending their position near Rutba, the last town on the desert road before the Trebil border crossing.

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Some International Companies Cautiously Return to Iraq

Sarah Kent and Ali Nabhan write for The Wall Street Journal:

For years, Iraq has careened from crisis to crisis. Now, some foreign companies see opportunity as the turmoil appears to be subsiding.

After disruptive anti-corruption protests earlier this year, a degree of stability has returned to parliament. Weak oil prices that sapped its economy have staged a fragile recovery. And Iraqi forces have beaten back Islamic State to just a few pockets in the country, most recently driving them from Fallujah and Ramadi.

Since then, interest in the country from serious investors has increased, saidMudher Salih, a former senior central bank official who advises Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on financial policy. “After Fallujah and Ramadi everything changed,” he said.

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In Kurdistan, beekeepers sweeten lives as business flourishes

Rawa Abdulla writes for Rudaw:

Osman Mullah Abdulla has been keeping bees for 15 years, making a living by producing and selling honey.  That makes him self-sufficient and in no need of government handouts.

Abdullah, the most experienced beekeeper in the village of Pishtashan in Sulaimani province, has 500 beehives which produce 400 tons of honey a year.

Although the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources does not have specific data about the number of bees, beekeepers and their products, according to other data it is estimated that around 350,000 to 500,000 beehives and 10,000 beekeepers exist in the region.

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Kurdish journalist killed in Duhok, evidence of torture

Rudaw reports:

A Kurdish journalist with reported ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was found dead on Saturday in the Kurdistan Region’s city of Duhok.

“Today, Wedat Hussein Ali, our reporter from RojNews News Agency, was kidnapped by some unidentified persons in the Malta neighborhood in Duhok. A few hours later his dead body was found on the Semel-Duhok road,” read an announcement from the news agency.

According to preliminary investigations Ali, 28, was tortured to death, RojNews said.

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Iraq: Arson likely behind deadly maternity ward fire

AFP reports:

A fire that killed 13 children in an Iraqi maternity ward was apparently started intentionally, the health ministry’s spokesman said on Sunday.

Ahmed al-Rudeini had previously said the Wednesday fire at Yarmuk Hospital, one of the main such facilities in Baghdad, had been started by an electrical fault.

But an investigation found “the presence of flammable materials at the site, and this of course indicates the occurrence of arson,” he said, also raising the death toll from the blaze to 13 from 12.

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Victories against IS leave Iraq’s Sunni heartland shattered

AP reports:

As Iraqi political and military attention shifts north in the fight against the Islamic State group, the military victories that have put Iraqi forces on Mosul's doorstep have left behind shattered cities, towns and communities in Iraq's Sunni heartland.

Anbar has witnessed the most successful military phase of the ground fight against IS to date. But rather than restore government order, services and security, liberation at the hands of Iraqi forces closely backed by the U.S.-led coalition has merely moved many Anbaris from one waiting room into another.

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Fleeing Mosul

Sharon Behn writes for Voice of America:

Up to a million people are trapped in the Islamic State-controlled city of Mosul. As Iraqi, Kurdish and tribal forces close in, men, women and children are expected to come streaming out. Protecting them will be one of the largest, most complex humanitarian operations in the world.

Kurdish forces are approaching from the east, pushing their front line into IS’s backyard. Iraqi forces edge up from Baghdad north toward Mosul, slowly taking village after booby-trapped village as coalition jets bomb IS targets.

People are already desperately trying to flee the fighting.

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The real faces of ISIS

Sally Armstrong writes for MacLean's:

The black bushy beard that makes Islamic State fighters look like oversized bullies is gone. So is the Darth Vader paraphernalia they wear as they swagger down the streets of captured cities like Mosul. Here in the Adult Reform Prison in Duhoc, Iraqi Kurdistan, Muhamed Mahmoud’s face is boyish and clean shaven. He’s 20 years old and looks for all the world like a kid studying hotel management.

The 235 captured men here are mostly young, mostly seeking a thrill or running away from trouble. The ones in this division of the prison are foot soldiers who were captured by Kurdish fighters known as the peshmerga. One was having girlfriend problems when he joined ISIS, another was out of money and looking for work. A third was fighting with his parents.

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UN: 100,000 displaced as Iraqi forces poise for Mosul battle

Susannah George and Balint Szlanko write for AP:

The U.N. refugee agency says more than 100,000 people have been displaced as Iraqi forces clear territory ahead of the critical battle for Islamic State-held Mosul — a dire statistic raising concerns that a million more could be displaced from in and around Iraq’s second-largest city as the operation moves forward.

Iraq’s leaders have repeatedly promised that Mosul — which has been in the hands of IS militants for more than two years now — will be retaken this year, though U.S. officials have said that timeline is unrealistic.

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