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

Washington warns ‘perfect storm’ of conditions leaves Isis-controlled Iraq and Syria vulnerable to outbreaks of infectious disease

Charlie Copper writes for the Independent:

A “perfect storm” of conflict and the breakdown of state healthcare have left swathes of Isis-occupied Syria and Iraq vulnerable to outbreaks of infectious disease, America’s new science envoy to the Middle East has warned. Dr Peter Hotez, a leading global health expert, said an outbreak of leishmaniasis, a disfiguring disease spread by sand flies, was already “out of control” in Syria, and he also warned about the rising risk posed by Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) in a region where many hospitals have closed and disease surveillance control measures are hampered by fighting.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has killed nearly 8,500 people, mostly in Liberia and Sierra Leone, both of which had recently emerged from civil conflict, should be a warning to the world over the fragility of war-torn regions, he added. “The fact that Ebola arose out of a post-conflict setting in West Africa is not a surprise,” he told The Independent on Sunday. “We know that if there’s a part of the world with this toxic mix of poverty and conflict you’re going to see epidemics of neglected tropical diseases. What I’m predicting now is that the next shoe to drop is in Isis-occupied Syria and Iraq, that will be the next place where we’ll see real problems.”

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Sunnis in Iraq are kept waiting for reforms, and word on loved ones

Tim Arango reports for the New York Times:

Under her black chador, Awatif al-Azawy clutched a few things for her imprisoned husband: a can of 7Up, two falafel sandwiches and a tube of skin cream. But even as she stood in a garden outside Baghdad’s main judicial complex, off limits to the relatives of the accused, she knew she was unlikely to see him. “I just like to spend my time here because I feel closer to my husband,” she said. “If I stayed at home, I’d feel guilty.”

On any given day, Sunni women gather here in search of answers about their men, some of whom have been jailed for years. “The Iraqi Army took my son in March of 2014,” said Tawfika Abbas. “Until now, I don’t know where he is. Zero information.” Another woman, Entisar Gannos, cried for her four sons: one jailed since 2006, another since 2010, and the other two since 2011, all without court hearings.

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Islamic State in Iraq free elderly Yazidis

BBC reports:

The Islamic State (IS) militant group has freed at least 200 members of the Yazidi religious community in northern Iraq. The group of mainly elderly Yazidis crossed out of IS-controlled territory and were received by Kurdish officials near the city of Kirkuk. It is not yet clear why militants released them.

IS attacked the Yazidi minority community in Iraq last year, killing and abducting thousands of people. Almost all of those released on Saturday were elderly or unwell, said Reuters. An early estimate of their numbers was put at 350, but later reports said there were some 200 in the group. The group, including several sick infants, were taken directly by Kurdish Peshmerga forces to a health centre for treatment.

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Iraq says U.S.-led coalition not doing enough against Islamic State

Ahmed Rasheed and Ned Parker report for Reuters :

Iraq has told President Barack Obama's envoy that the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State needs to do more to help Iraq defeat the jihadists controlling large areas of the north and west of the country. Parliament speaker Selim al-Jabouri said he delivered the message in a closed meeting with retired U.S. Marine General John Allen, who visited Baghdad this week for talks with Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi's government. "Until now our feeling is that the international support is not convincing," Jabouri told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday. "We might see participation here or there, but it is not enough for the tough situation we are passing through."

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ISIS chief orders execution of 56 members: KDP

Al Arabiya reports :

The head of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has ordered the execution of 56 members of the militant group following a defeat in northern Iraq, a Kurdish official told Al Arabiya News Channel. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took the decision after the Islamist militants’ defeat in Kober, south of Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, said Saeed Mamozini, an official in the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP).

The media official said the “executions took place in the Al-Namrood, east Mosul,” noting that the “battles between ISIS and the Peshmerga south of Erbil led to the killing of 300 members of the group and approximately 150 others.” The U.S.-led coalition has since late 2014 been launching air strikes against the militant group, which seized large swathes of territory in Iraq in June. The Iraqi army and Kurdish fighters have also been battling ISIS as part of the U.S.-led initiative.

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Hollande says aircraft carrier could support Iraq operations

Julien Ponthus reports for Reuters :

France's Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier is ready to be used to support military operations against Islamic State in Iraq, French President Francois Hollande told military personnel aboard the vessel on Wednesday. "Thanks to the Charles de Gaulle we will have precious intelligence," the president said in a New Year's address, given as the carrier cruised off France's southern coast in the Mediterranean. "We may also conduct operations in Iraq, if necessary, with even more intensity and more efficiency. The aircraft carrier will work in close cooperation with coalition forces."

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Iraq paid $10 billion for rusty Iranian arms

Abdulrahman al-Rashed writes for Al Arabiya:

A recent Associated Press report spoke of Iran’s increased domination over Iraq under the cover of supporting it against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) organization. According to the report’s sources, the Iranians have sold Iraq nearly $10 billion worth of weapons to confront terrorism. These weapons include Kalashnikovs, rocket launchers and ammunition and the value of this weaponry may not even exceed $50 million! Of course, it's needless to explain that $10 billion is a massive amount enough to have bought advanced armory from prominent countries which produce military hardware instead of rusty simple arms from Iran. But the objective was to fund Iran’s military needs during this phase in which it confronts domestic economic pressures.

The Iraqis who are currently overjoyed with this Iranian support will in the future end up complaining about Tehran’s domination over them. They will complain that they cannot freely take decisions according to their national interests. Iraq will then become submissive to Iran due to the latter’s increased political and security influence – just as Lebanon came under Syria’s influence in the 1970s when the latter’s troops entered the country to save it from Palestinian militias and only withdrew after 30 years of a quasi-occupation and after a threat by the U.N. Security Council.

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Winston Churchill’s map of Iraq ready to unravel over oil

Bloomberg reports:

Winston Churchill understood the significance of the black stuff seeping to the surface in the Kurdish plains of Mesopotamia when he included the region within Iraq as the British forged the country in the 1920s. In doing so, Churchill, the colonial secretary at the time, set in train almost a century of bickering between the Iraqi government and its Kurdish enclave over the area’s estimated 45 billion barrels of crude.

While their latest dispute was temporarily resolved last month to help finance the struggle against ISIL, the accord has not addressed differences between administrations in Baghdad and Erbil that include the future of Kirkuk, northern Iraq’s main oil hub. The Iraqi government started pumping crude from Kirkuk through Kurdish pipes that bypass militant-held territory to Turkey, Iraq’s Almada newspaper reported on January 1.

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Dispute between El Cajon priest and Chaldean leader in Iraq continues

Tony Perry writes for the Los Angeles Times:

Intervention by Pope Francis has apparently not solved the schism between a prominent Chaldean priest in eastern San Diego County and the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq. At issue is a demand by Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako that Father Noel Gorgis and several other Chaldean priests in the United States return to Iraq or face, in effect, excommunication.

In an interview with Aleteia, a Rome-based Catholic news agency, Sako said that the survival of the church is at stake during the onslaught by Islamic radicals. “We have been there for 2,000 years,” he said. “We have a mission and a role, and if a future exists for the Chaldean Church, it is not in the diaspora but in Iraq. If all the families leave, and even the priests, the entire history and Chaldean Christian patrimony will vanish.” Gorgis, known as Father Noel, is pastor at St. Peters Chaldean Church in El Cajon. Along with the Detroit area, eastern San Diego County has been a major resettling spot for Iraqi immigrants.

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Iraq: Greater support needed for uprooted communities

The ICRC reports:

At the end of a six-day visit to Iraq, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) vowed to scale up assistance to displaced people and the communities hosting them. President Peter Maurer witnessed the difficult conditions endured by people as a result of ongoing fighting, long periods of displacement, loss of property, and freezing temperatures. He joined ICRC teams distributing food and other relief and visited a facility that provides clean drinking water to displaced people.

"This week I have heard heartbreaking stories of families uprooted violently from their homes and separated from their loved ones," said Mr Maurer. "The people of Iraq have shown extraordinary solidarity with their fellow countrymen and women who have fled the violence in their thousands. When the ICRC comes to deliver aid to the displaced, it finds that local communities have already received these people in distress with open arms and great generosity. But in the face of the enormous suffering of the displaced and the additional pressure on host communities and services, we all have a duty to ensure that their basic needs in terms of food, water, health care and shelter are met."

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