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

Germany eyes repatriating teen held in Iraq over IS ties

AP reports:

German authorities are trying to determine whether four German women, including a teenager, detained in Iraq on allegations of sympathizing with the Islamic State group can return home.

They include 16-year-old Linda Wenzel, who ran away after converting to Islam and was found by Iraqi troops in Mosul last month.

A spokesman for Germany’s Foreign Ministry says diplomats recently visited two of the women in Baghdad and determined they are “doing well given the circumstances.”

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The Men Who Trade ISIS Loot

Benoit Faucon, Georgi Kantchev and Alistair MacDonald write for The Wall Street Journal:

A stream of plundered antiquities flowing out of Syria and Iraq to Western art collectors is dependent on men like Muhammad hajj Al-Hassan.

Mr. Al-Hassan, a 28-year-old Syrian, says he started to trade antiquities in 2015 after being contacted by a top official of Islamic State who sought his archaeological expertise to find Western buyers.

Later, he became cog in an international supply chain smuggling art looted by ISIS.

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Three Years Later – Where Are the Nineveh Plains Christians?

Ewelina U. Ochab writes for Forbes:

On August 6, 2014, after an attack on Yazidis in Sinjar, Daesh came after Christians in Nineveh Plains. Over night, Daesh captured 13 villages and forced thousands of Christians to flee their homes leaving their lives behind and walking towards an uncertain future in Kurdistan. They did not take much with them as they hoped that they would be able to return after a few days. This hope began to perish when days turned into weeks, months and years.

The thousands of Iraqi Christians found themselves in Kurdistan, mostly Ankawa, a Christian friendly district of Erbil. Kurdistan was not adequately prepared for the thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) arriving at once. The IDPs turned to churches for help. They found refuge in churches, church courtyards, parks, and streets - homeless but safer than in the hands of Daesh.

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In the ruins of an Iraqi city, memories of Agatha Christie

Isabel Coles writes for Reuters:

Agatha Christie lived here once, but only memories remain of the time the best-selling crime writer spent among the ruins of the ancient Iraqi city of Nimrud.

The mud-brick house where the British author of "Murder on the Orient Express" once stayed is long gone. If she were alive today, she would probably be shocked by what has befallen the Assyrian city where she worked alongside her archaeologist husband five decades ago.

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Top US official: ISIS is shrinking but “end stage” is some way off

Laura Koran and Michelle Kosinski write for CNN:

As US-backed forces tighten their grip on ISIS's Syrian capital Raqqa, and Iraqis celebrate the liberation of Mosul, the man tasked by both the Obama and Trump administrations to coordinate the anti-ISIS effort sees reason for optimism.

In a wide-ranging interview with CNN this week, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS Brett McGurk hailed the coalition's progress against the terror group -- which spread through Iraq and Syria at a lightning pace three years ago.
"We've retaken about 70,000 square kilometers," he said. "Five million people, Iraqis and Syrians, who were living under ISIS, have now been freed. And really, most importantly, the migrant refugee flow that we used to see has now reversed."

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Iraq parliament delays questioning minister over graft charges

Reuters reports:

Iraq's parliament on Thursday postponed questioning acting Trade Minister Salman al-Jumaili over corruption allegations after he launched a legal challenge, trade ministry officials and parliament sources said.

The minister, a Sunni Muslim in a government dominated by Shi'ites, contested the legality of the signatures gathered to authorize his grilling, one of the lawmakers leading the investigation said.

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Iraq faces vast challenges in securing, rebuilding Mosul

AFP reports:

With Mosul in ruins and nearly a million displaced, Iraq now faces the enormous task of restoring order and rebuilding its second city after driving out Daesh.

After eight months of gruelling fighting against Daesh, Iraqi forces are in control of Mosul.

But the famed Old City has been reduced to rubble and the iconic leaning minaret of its Al-Nuri mosque, the image of which adorns the 10,000 dinar note, lies in ruins.

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What an ISIS suicide attack looks like from the air and the ground

Thomas Gibbons-Neff writes for The Washington Post:

An Islamic State suicide attack carried out earlier this week was captured by both a television camera crew and by the terrorist group’s drone in their de facto capital of Raqqa, offering dual perspectives on the bloody, urban combat that has become a hallmark of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

The attack, which reportedly occurred Tuesday, was geolocated using the stills from the Islamic State drone to a neighborhood in eastern Raqqa, where U.S.-backed fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, are fighting to push into the city.

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Three years since Islamic State attack, Yazidi wounds still open

Maher Chmaytelli writes for Reuters:

Iraq's Yazidis marked three years since Islamic State launched what the United Nations said was a genocidal campaign against them on Thursday, but their ordeal is far from over despite the ouster of the jihadist fighters.

Militants were driven out of the last part of the Yazidi homeland in northern Iraq in May. However, most Yazidis have yet to return to villages they fled when Islamic State over-ran Sinjar in the summer of 2014, killing and capturing thousands because of their faith.

Nearly 3,000 Yazidi women and children remain in Islamic State captivity, and control over Sinjar is disputed by rival armed factions and their regional patrons. Justice for the crimes Yazidis suffered, including sexual enslavement, has also so far proved elusive.

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Why time was right for Iraq and Saudi Arabia to focus on common enemies

Taimur Khan writes for The National:

The populist Iraqi cleric and politician, Moqtada Al Sadr, stepped off of his airplane and onto a tarmac in Jeddah’s searing heat and humidity in his customary black robe and turban. He was greeted by Tamer Al Sabhan, the former Saudi ambassador to Iraq who was forced to leave the country last year after remarks critical of Shiite militias fighting ISIL. Upon his return he was promoted to minister of state for Arabian Gulf affairs and has maintained his ties with various influential Iraqis.

Images of the unannounced trip to the kingdom on Sunday by the Shiite leader — himself the commander a militia — and of his meeting later that day with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, startled even close observers of a region that is ever more defined by brutal sectarian logic.

A desire to begin balancing Iranian influence in Baghdad is fueling an emergent and still tentative but determined engagement between Riyadh and Shiite power brokers in Baghdad for the first time since relations soured badly during the tenure of the previous prime minister.

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