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

EU considers Iraq security mission after Mosul falls, diplomats say

Robin Emmott writes for Reuters:

The European Union will consider sending a new security mission to help stabilize Iraq after the expected recapture of Mosul from Islamic State, EU foreign ministers said on Monday.

EU foreign ministers held a first discussion in Luxembourg and agreed to consider the deployment of an EU Security Sector Reform Advice and Assist Team, which could train Iraq security officials, according to a statement released after the meeting.

"I hope this can be put in place rapidly enough, hopefully in the coming months, so we can provide all our advice and assistance to the Iraqi authorities," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told a news conference.

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Iraqi Forces Begin Assault on Mosul’s Old City

Tim Arango writes for The New York Times:

Iraqi forces on Sunday began penetrating the narrow streets and warrens of Mosul’s heavily populated old city, in the last phase of a monthslong battle against the Islamic State militants that American commanders have described as one of the toughest in urban warfare since World War II.

The assault began at dawn, with airstrikes and a push by Iraq’s counterterrorism forces into the neighborhoods of the old city. It was met with fierce resistance by Islamic State fighters, according to commanders, suggesting that the battle, the most vicious phase in the long fight for Mosul, could go on for days or weeks.

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Iraqi forces have taken back a vital conduit from Islamic State, but questions remain

Nabih Bulos writes for LA Times:

Days after Islamic State blitzed through northern Iraq and snatched the city of Mosul in mid-2014, it made a powerful statement of conquest: a bulldozer punched a hole through the sand berm marking the line between Iraq and Syria, an event captured in a polished propaganda video titled “Kasr al Hudood” — Breaking of the Borders.

The demolition, set to the strains of a rousing nasheed, or Islamic chant, and attended by the group’s top commanders, underscored Islamic State’s claim of creating a “caliphate” based on religion, not national borders.

That hole in the berm is now blocked, the militants (at least on the Iraqi side) chased away. In their stead, fighters with the Shiite-dominated auxiliary force known as the Hashd al Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Units, maintain a lonely vigil over this desolate corner of the desert, their weapons trained upon Islamic State positions on the very edge of Syria.

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Mosul’s Old City threatened as showdown looms

AFP reports:

Mosul's Old City, where Iraqi forces are closing in on the Islamic State group's final urban refuge in Iraq, is an ancient maze of narrow alleys.

At its heart lies the emblematic Al-Nuri mosque, where jihadist supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in June 2014 after his forces seized Iraq's second city along with swathes of territory extending into neighbouring Syria.

Perched on the bank of the river Tigris and protected for centuries by 11th century ramparts, medieval Mosul was a key meeting point for merchants from India, Persia and the Mediterranean.

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Iran should stop interfering in Iraq, Iraqi VP Allawi says

Amina Ismail writes for Reuters:

Iran's support to Shi'ite groups in Iraq is obstructing efforts to bridge the sectarian divide ahead of a parliamentary election next year, Iraqi Vice President Iyad Allawi said on Friday.

"Iran has been interfering even in the decision (making process) of the Iraqi people," he told Reuters. "We don't want an election based on sectarianism, we want an inclusive political process ... we hope that the Iraqis would choose themselves without any involvement by any foreign power."

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Mosul Battle: Searching for Bodies in IS Rubble

Heather Murdock writes for Voice of America:

Like most teenagers in Mosul, Iraq, Dhyab Idris Abdulghani dropped out of school once Islamic State (IS) militants took over and changed textbooks into pro-violence treatises.

Then the war for Mosul came to their neighborhood. As Iraqi forces pushed in, the 17-year-old and his family ran. He held a small cousin while IS militants fired at them from behind.

Two weeks later, IS bullets still whiz down the street near where the teenager's body lay slumped against a wall amid personal effects of other civilians shot down. Children’s shoes, photo albums and spare clothes are scattered over bloodstains in the rubble.

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From Tehran to Beirut: Shia militias aim to firm up Iran’s arc of influence

Martin Chulov writes for The Guardian:

The town of Ba’aj is deserted and broken. Its streets are blocked by overturned cars, its shops are shuttered and the iron gates of its ravaged homes groan in a scorching wind.

Amid the wreckage, though, are the signs of new arrivals – forces who less than a week earlier chased Islamic State (Isis) from one of its most important territories in northern Iraq.

Spraying graffiti and planting their battle colours, they have wasted little time in staking their claim to a place that had mattered little in the sweep of Iraq’s modern history, but which is set to be pivotal from this moment on.

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Ankara Pushes Back on Iraqi Kurd Independence Bid

Dorian Jones writes for Voice of America:

A bid by Iraqi Kurds to achieve independence could threaten a partnership with neighboring Turkey.

"The [referendum] decision by the northern Iraqi authority deeply saddened us," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his ruling AKP lawmakers this past Tuesday. "A step toward the independence of northern Iraq is a threat to the territorial integrity of Iraq, and it is wrong," he added.

Erdogan has built a close, if not unlikely, relationship with Masoud Barzani, president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional government, or KRG. In past years, Erdogan dismissed Barzani as nothing more than a bandit, but the two men have developed an increasingly powerful alliance based on shared economic and regional interests.

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Mosul Old City residents spend hungry and fearful Ramadan under IS rule

Ahmed Rasheed writes for Reuters:

For Salam, a resident in the Islamic State-held Old City of Mosul, the holy fasting month of Ramadan this year is the worst he's seen in a lifetime marked by wars and deprivations.

"We are slowly dying from hunger, boiling mouldy wheat as soup" to break the fast at sunset, the 47 year-old father of three said by phone from the district besieged by Iraqi forces, asking to withhold his name fearing the militants' retribution.

The only wish he makes in his prayers is for his family to survive the final days of the self-proclaimed caliphate declared three years ago by IS's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from a nearby mosque.

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UN won’t play any role in Iraqi Kurds’ independence vote

Sinan Salaheddin reports for AP:

The United Nations said it will not be “engaged in any way or form” in the process surrounding the independence referendum in Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous Kurdish region planned for September.

The statement by the U.N. special mission to Iraq, or UNAMI, released late Wednesday could cast doubts on the credibility of the vote, which has already sparked wide criticism from the central government in Baghdad and several regional and Western nations.

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