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

Kurdish Officials Shut Down Group Aiding Yezidis

Belkis Wille writes for Human Rights Watch:

Yesterday, a prominent nongovernmental organization supporting the Yezidi religious minority said it was shut down by security officers from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

The organization, called Yazda, is located in the city of Dohuk in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Three KRG officers came to the offices and told staff the organization was now “closed.” Although Kurdish authorities claimed they closed down Yazda after warning it to abide by KRG rules governing NGOs, Yazda staff said that they received no such warning. Rather, they said officers provided no reason, no paperwork, and no information on how long it was being closed. The officers put locks on the doors to prevent staff from coming back.

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U.S. general sees Islamic State’s capability waning in east Mosul

Stephen Kalin writes for Reuters:

The declining effectiveness of Islamic State attacks against Iraqi forces in eastern Mosul suggests the militants are starting to run out of resources with the campaign in its third month, a U.S. general told Reuters.

Since the U.S.-backed offensive began on Oct. 17, elite troops have retaken a quarter of the city in the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said the group will be driven out of the country by April.

The second phase of the campaign, launched last week following nearly a month of deadlock, has pushed Islamic State out of several more areas in eastern Mosul despite fierce resistance. Iraqi forces have yet to enter the west.

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Suicide Bombing in Baghdad Kills at Least 36

AP reports:

A suicide bomber detonated a pickup truck loaded with explosives on Monday in a busy Baghdad market, killing at least 36 people hours after President François Hollande of France arrived in the Iraqi capital.

The Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attack.

The bomb went off in a produce market that was packed with day laborers, a police officer said, adding that another 52 people were wounded.

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Humble Iraqi Dish Offers Taste of Home for Mosul’s Displaced

Joseph Krauss writes for AP:

Long before it became famous as a battlefield in the fight against the Islamic State group, the Iraqi city of Mosul was known for its ancient cuisine, enriched by Syrian, Turkish and Persian recipes.

Mosul chefs make savory meat pies known as kubbeh and spicy flatbread smeared with ground beef, which can be found in Middle Eastern restaurants the world over. But among Iraqis the city is known for pache (PAH-chay) — animal heads, intestines and other parts boiled in giant vats.

It's an acquired taste, to be sure. But for many of Mosul's far-flung residents, displaced by more than two years of war, it's a reminder of home. Iraq's second largest city fell to IS militants in the summer of 2014, and Iraqi forces are now locked in a long and grinding battle to drive them out.

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Iraq forces have retaken over 60% of east Mosul: commander

AFP reports:

Iraqi forces have retaken more than 60 percent of eastern Mosul from the Islamic State group since the battle for the city began in mid-October, a top commander said Sunday.

"From east Mosul... more than 60 percent" has been recaptured from IS, Staff Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, a top commander in Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), told AFP.

The eastern side of Mosul, which is split by the Tigris River, is the larger of the two, but more civilians live in the west, he said.

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Caution marks Iraqi army advance against Islamic State north of Mosul

Stephen Kalin writes for Reuters:

The second phase of the operation to retake Mosul, Islamic State's last major stronghold in Iraq, began on Thursday after several weeks of deadlock in the most complex operation in the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Conventional U.S. forces deploying more extensively in this phase are now visible very close to the front lines. They are backing Iraq's army, federal police and counter-terrorism service (CTS), whose levels of training and experience vary widely.

Since the offensive began 10 weeks ago, CTS punched into Mosul from the east and took a quarter of the city, but regular army troops like those in Sada have made slower progress advancing from the north and south, slowing the operation.

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Turning Iraq History to Rubble, Leaving the Mess to Looters

Lori Hinnant writes for AP:

The giant winged bulls that once stood sentry at the nearly 3,000-year-old palace at Nimrud have been hacked to pieces. The fantastical human-headed creatures were believed to guard the king from evil, but now their stone remains are piled in the dirt, victims of the Islamic State group's fervor to erase history.

The militants' fanaticism devastated one of the most important archaeological sites in the Middle East. But more than a month after the militants were driven out, Nimrud is still being ravaged, its treasures disappearing, piece by piece, imperiling any chance of eventually rebuilding it, an Associated Press team found after multiple visits in the past month.

With the government and military still absorbed in fighting the war against the Islamic State group in nearby Mosul, the wreckage of the Assyrian Empire's ancient capital lies unprotected and vulnerable to looters.

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ISIS Claims 2 Bombings in Baghdad, While Fighting to Hold On to Mosul

Reuters reports:

Two bombings claimed by the Islamic State killed at least 25 people in central Baghdad on Saturday as fighting intensified in the northern city of Mosul, where government forces are trying to rout the jihadists from that city, their last major stronghold in the country.

The blasts, including one suicide attack, tore through a busy market in the Sinak neighborhood, the police said. A pro-Islamic State news agency said the assailants had targeted Shiite Muslims, whom they regard as apostates.

The Islamic State has continued to launch attacks in Baghdad, the heavily fortified capital, even after losing most of the northern and western territory it seized in 2014.

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Elite Iraq units link up for Mosul assault: officers

AFP reports:

Two elite Iraqi units linked up in Mosul on Saturday and will form a joint front to advance westward against the Islamic State group, officers said.

The Rapid Response Division reached the northern edge of Al-Intisar neighbourhood, while the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) advanced to the southern side of the adjoining Al-Quds area.

The two neighbourhoods are located on the eastern side of Mosul, where security forces have retaken multiple areas from IS, but the city's west is still completely in jihadist hands.

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Inside the economic war against the Islamic State

Joby Warrick writes for The Washington Post:

The Islamic State starts the new year with a drastically depleted bank account, counterterrorism officials say, following months of intensified efforts to deprive the Islamists of oil profits and other revenue used to finance military operations and terrorist attacks abroad.

Coalition aircraft in the past 15 months have destroyed more than 1,200 tanker trucks — including 168 vehicles struck in a single air raid in Syria in early December — while also using new weapons and tactics to inflict lasting damage on the terrorists’ remaining oil fields, U.S. and Middle Eastern officials say.

The military strikes are being paired with new measures intended to shut down financial networks used by the Islamic State to procure supplies and pay its fighters, the officials say. Two weeks ago, the U.S. and Iraqi governments announced the first coordinated effort to punish Iraqi and Syrian financial services companies used by the terrorists to conduct business.

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