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

UN: Mosul Liberation Could Trigger Major Humanitarian Crisis

Margaret Besheer writes for Voice of America:

The U.N.’s top diplomat in Iraq is warning that the expected military operation to liberate the city of Mosul from Islamic State fighters could become the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.

“OCHA [UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] estimates that the Mosul operation will be the largest and most sensitive humanitarian crisis in the world in 2016,” Iraq envoy Jan Kubis told the U.N. Security Council in a briefing on Friday. Mosul is Iraq’s second largest city.

He said a U.N. aid appeal for $861 million stands at less than 40 percent funded, and a reallocation of existing resources is urgently required, not just to meet current emergency needs, but for those anticipated for the Mosul liberation campaign.

“The [Mosul] humanitarian effort could cost as much as $1 billion,” Kubis warned.

Iraq is already classified as a Level 3 emergency — the highest crisis category. Currently, the U.N. estimates more than 10 million Iraqis require some form of humanitarian assistance — including the 3.4 million people who have been displaced since the rise of the self-styled Islamic State began in 2014.

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Why some Iraqi Shiites are pushing for distance from Iran

Ali Mamouri writes for Al-Monitor:

Iraq’s Shiites are witnessing a political-religious rift in their stance toward Iran whose development can be traced back to 2003. While some express complete loyalty to the Shiite political regime in Tehran, others object to its regional policies, including toward Iraq, and distance from it.

In one example, the predominantly Shiite Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) held a military parade July 1 in Basra. They destroyed US and Israeli flags and burned photos of Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud. The march sparked criticism and anger among some Shiites, because the United States has friendly relations with Iraq and is supporting its security forces in their war against the Islamic State (IS). Also, given the state competition in the region, hostility toward Saudi Arabia is not in Iraq’s interest.

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Sadr supporters return to Baghdad streets despite government pleas

Reuters reports:

Thousands of supporters of powerful Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr filled a central Baghdad square on Friday, disregarding government pleas to scrap protests it said would distract from the war against Islamic State.

The demonstration ended a respite from street actions which in April and May saw protesters storm Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone government district twice, hampering parliament for weeks and causing several deaths.

Sadr's followers have returned with familiar demands to fight corruption and overhaul a governing system based on ethnic, sectarian and party quotas.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has failed to implement a cabinet reshuffle he promised months ago as part of reforms.

The protests have at times boosted Abadi in his bid to replace ministers chosen on the basis of political affiliation with independent technocrats, but he has said more recently they risk undermining the military's push to kick Islamic State out of its northern Mosul stronghold.

Activity in much of Baghdad crawled to a halt overnight as security forces deployed ahead of the demonstration, following a military parade in central Baghdad marking a national holiday.

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ISIS says senior commander “Omar the Chechen” was killed in Iraq

AP reports:

An Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-run media outlet says Omar al-Shishani, one of the group's top military commanders, has been killed in fighting near the Iraqi city of Mosul.

U.S. and Iraqi officials, as well as Syrian activists, said in March that al-Shishani, who was in his 30s and known as "Omar the Chechen," had died of wounds sustained in a U.S. airstrike in Syria.

But the ISIS-run Aamaq news agency reported Wednesday that al-Shishani was "martyred" in the town of al-Shirqat, near Mosul, while helping to "halt the military campaign" against the ISIS-held city. ISIS supporters published eulogies to al-Shishani on social media and messaging networks.

Aamaq had denied that al-Shishani was killed in March, without providing evidence that he was alive.

It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting reports.

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Iraqi forces link up south of Mosul, tightening noose around Islamic State

Reuters reports:

Iraqi government forces advancing on the ISIS-held city of Mosul retook a village from the militants on Tuesday and linked up along the Tigris river with army units pushing from a separate direction, Defence Minister Khalid al-Obeidi said.

The territorial gain, which followed the recapture of a key air base nearby at the weekend, further isolated Mosul in preparation for a government assault to recover Iraq's second largest city 60 km to the north.

"Forces from the 9th Armored Division and the counter-terrorism service liberated Ajhala village north of Qayara base," Obeidi said on Twitter.

"Our heroes arrived at the riverbank and made contact with Nineveh Liberation Operation units," he added, referring to troops who had set out from Makhmour, 25 km east of the Tigris, in March.

The newly retaken territory still needs to be secured since ISIS insurgents remain holed up in several towns behind the government's front line, a military spokesman said.

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ISIS suicide bomber kills four at Iraq checkpoint

AFP reports:

A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle at a checkpoint near Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least four people, officials said, an attack claimed by ISIS.

The bombing at a checkpoint leading to the Husseiniyah area, northeast of the capital, also wounded 21 people, the officials said.

ISIS issued a statement saying an Iraqi carried out a suicide bombing targeting a checkpoint, but gave the location of the attack as Shaab, an area adjoining Husseiniyah.

The blast is the latest in a series of deadly attacks in and around Baghdad, including a bombing in a crowded shopping district on July 3 that killed 292 people, one of the deadliest ever to hit Iraq.

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Iraqi Refugees See No Way Home

Heather Murdock writes for Voice of America:

“They can’t turn me down,” says 21-year-old Safaa, an Iraqi asylum seeker, after inquiring with German officials again about his next interview.  “Most of my city has been destroyed.”

“I’m not worried,” he adds, smiling.

His friend, 27-year-old Ahmed, is also from Salah al-Din, an Iraqi province beset with both Islamic State militants and sectarian strife.  While Safaa looks confident Germany will accept his application, his friend leans in quietly behind him and says to me in English:  “Oh, he is worried. He’s worried.”

Seven months have passed since these men arrived in Germany, and they are no closer to knowing if or when they will be granted asylum - that is,  legal refugee status.  At a plaza outside the central train station in Dresden, they say Iraqi and U.S. escalation of the assault on IS won’t change their plans, whatever the outcome.

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ISIS releases a new video of captive British journalist John Cantlie in Iraq

Max Bearak writes for The Washington Post:

The media arm of the Islamic State released a new video Tuesday showing captive British journalist John Cantlie in the Iraqi city of Mosul. It is the 12th video he has been featured in since mid-2014. Cantlie was kidnapped alongside American journalist James Foley in 2012 in Syria.

In the three-minute video, Cantlie stands in front of the near-pulverized remains of Mosul University, which the U.S. military bombed in March on intelligence that it was being used as headquarters by the Islamic State. A video released by the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria that shows the airstrike can be seen below.

Cantlie discusses the airstrike in the video, and, as in his earlier videos, is put forth as a prototypical presenter in a style seemingly modeled on documentary films. He espouses a pro-Islamic State agenda, mocking the logic of bombing the university. The sound of the drone used for filming the video buzzes in the background.

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Pentagon will provide new assistance to Iraq after Baghdad bombings

Dan Lamothe writes for The Washington Post:

Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter promised Iraqi officials new assistance Monday to stave off bombings by the Islamic State after the group’s most deadly attack on central Baghdad earlier this month.

The Pentagon chief said the United States would offer high-tech explosives detectors and a visit by the U.S. general running a Defense Department office aimed at combating improvised explosives.

The added support comes as Carter also announced Monday that 560 more U.S. troops will deploy to Iraq in coming weeks, primarily to reestablish an airfield seized Saturday by Iraqi security forces 40 miles south of the Islamic State-held city of Mosul. Carter offered the assistance of Army Lt. Gen. Michael H. Shields, director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and the Iraqi leader accepted, defense officials traveling with Carter said.

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Iraq: Suicide Bombing in Baghdad Shiite District Kills 12

Sinan Salaheddin reports for AP:

A suicide car bomb ripped through an outdoor market in a Shiite-dominated northeastern district of Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 12 people, officials said, as government forces deployed across much of the Iraqi capital in preparation for a major military parade later this week.

Five more people died in bombings Tuesday elsewhere in Iraq.

The developments came on the heels of two large-scale attacks claimed by the Islamic State group that killed more than 300 people last week. On Monday, visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Washington will send 560 more troops to Iraq to help battle IS.

In Tuesday's Baghdad bombing, the explosives-laden pickup truck exploded during the morning rush hour at a vegetable and fruit market in the al-Rashidiya district, a police officer said. The blast killed 12 and wounded up to 37, and also damaged several cars, he added.

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