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

As climate threats grow, Iraq battles a new enemy: Water shortages

Laurie Goering writes for Reuters:

After years battling Islamic State militants, Iraqi farmers – many of them military volunteers – are now returning to their homes and fields only to find a new threat: a shortage of water.

Construction of dams and other water-holding facilities in upstream Turkey and Iran, combined with increasingly erratic rainfall across the region, mean the amount of water flowing in key Iraqi rivers has fallen by at least 40 percent in recent decades, said Hassan Janabi, the country’s water resources minister.

Damage to Iraq’s own dams and other infrastructure from years of fighting - and from a recent earthquake - also is making water supplies more irregular, he said.

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KRG to prioritize salaries in 2018 budget

Rudaw reports:

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) plans to prioritize salaries and basic services in its budget for the first half of next year after its revenues took a hit with the loss of Kirkuk oil fields in October.
Two financial reports were put to the Council of Ministers.
Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami outlined expected oil revenues and expenses for the first six months of 2018, according to a government statement that did not provide figures.

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American diplomat: US looks to counter Iran in post-war Iraq

Susannah George writes for AP:

As Iraq emerges from three years of war with the Islamic State group, the U.S. is looking to roll back the influence of neighboring Iran and help the central government resolve its dispute with the Kurdish region, the American envoy to the country told The Associated Press.

U.S. Ambassador Douglas Silliman took up his post in Baghdad in September 2016, just weeks before the start of the operation to retake the northern city of Mosul. With IS now driven out of all the territory it once held and Iraq's declaration that the war against the extremists is over, he says Washington is focused on keeping the peace and rebuilding, and sees Iran's influence as a problem.

"Iran simply does not respect the sovereignty of its neighbors," Silliman said. "The Iranians have — to some extent — assisted the government of Iraq in defeating ISIS," he said, using an alternative acronym for IS. "But frankly I have not seen the Iranians donating money for humanitarian assistance, I have not seen them contributing to the U.N. stabilization program."

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How ISIS Produced Its Cruel Arsenal on an Industrial Scale

John Ismay, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, and C. J. Chivers write for The New York Times:

Late this spring, Iraqi forces fighting the Islamic State in Mosul discovered three unfired rocket-propelled grenades with an unusual feature — a heavy liquid sloshing inside their warheads. Tests later found that the warheads contained a crude blister agent resembling sulfur mustard, a banned chemical weapon intended to burn a victim’s skin and respiratory tract.

The improvised chemical rockets were the latest in a procession of weapons developed by the Islamic State during a jihadist arms-manufacturing spree without recent analogue.

Irregular fighting forces, with limited access to global arms markets, routinely manufacture their own weapons. But the Islamic State took the practice to new levels, with outputs “unlike anything we’ve ever seen” from a nonstate force, said Solomon H. Black, a State Department official who tracks and analyzes weapons.

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Iraq’s top Shiite cleric orders fighters to disarm after defeat of ISIL

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq’s top Shiite cleric on Monday ordered his fighters to hand state-issued weapons back to the government following the country’s defeat of ISIL.

Moqtada Al Sadr’s fighters, Saraya Al Salam, or Peace Brigades, took up arms against the extremist group in 2014 after the fall of Mosul and are officially part of the government-sanctioned Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), also known as Hashed Al Shaabi.

In a televised statement, Mr Al Sadr called on his fighters to also hand over parts of the territory they control to Iraq’s security forces. He maintained, however, that his fighters would remain present as protectors of a holy Shiite shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad.

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Turkish air strikes kill 29 Kurdish militants in northern Iraq: army

Reuters reports:

Turkish warplanes hit Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq on Monday and killed 29 of the group’s militants, Turkey’s armed forces said.

The PKK fighters were believed to be preparing an attack on Turkish border posts from the Hakurk and Metina regions of northern Iraq, the army said in a written statement.

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IS battle may be won, but Iraq faces major challenges

Ali Choukeir and Sarah Benhaida write for AFP:

Iraq may have announced a final victory over the Islamic State group in the country, but Baghdad's triumph remains fragile and the root causes for the jihadists' rise have not been tackled.

Troops backed up by the air power of a US-led coalition have waged some of the fiercest urban warfare seen anywhere in decades to oust the jihadists from a string of cities and towns across the country.

But while Baghdad may be basking in its battlefield success for now, relying on military might will not be enough in the longer term.

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Yazidis caught in ‘political football’ between Baghdad, Iraqi Kurds

Raya Jalabi writes for Reuters:

Since Iraqi forces pushed the Kurds out of the Yazidis’ mountainous heartland of Sinjar in northern Iraq in October, residents are wondering what could happen to them next.

Food and money are in short supply since aid organizations stopped delivery after Iraq’s advance. Buildings collapsed in the fighting and of those still standing, many are marked with bullets and littered with IEDs. Water and electricity barely work.

Now the land they have lived on for centuries is caught up in a tug of war between Baghdad and Iraq’s Kurds, who had controlled it since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

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After Fall of ISIS, Iraq’s Second-Largest City Picks Up the Pieces

Margaret Coker writes for The New York Times:

In the heat of the late summer sun, weeks after the end of one of the largest urban battles since World War II, a high school principal trekked from his home in east Mosul to the west bank of the Tigris River to confront the ruins of his life’s work.

Bordering Mosul’s Old City, his stately Ottoman-era school, where generations of Iraqi political and military leaders studied, lay in ruin. Two campus buildings had been leveled by American coalition airstrikes during the battle against the Islamic State. Century-old stone walls were scarred from shrapnel. The once-gleaming computer lab, library and theater, which in 2014 presented a student production of “Macbeth,” were burned by retreating Islamic State fighters.

The scale of devastation at the place he hoped to mold Iraq’s next generation of leaders drew a flutter of despair from the principal, Muthana Saleh. But then he harnessed the traits that residents of Mosul are famous for: ingenuity and industriousness. This month, thanks in part of volunteers and an Iraqi donor, he is planning to restart classes for 450 students.

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Iraq formally declares end to fight against Islamic State

Emma Graham-Harrison writes for The Guardian:

Iraq has formally declared its fight against Islamic State over after three years of heavy combat, although surviving militants are widely expected to launch a guerrilla war.

Isis has been driven from all the territory it once held inside Iraq, the prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, announced in Baghdad on Saturday.

The full length of the border between Iraq and Syria, which Isis fighters traversed freely for years, is also now held by Iraqi forces, a top military commander said. “All Iraqi lands are liberated from terrorist Daesh [Isis] gangs and our forces completely control the international Iraqi-Syrian border,” Lt Gen Abdul-Amir Rasheed Yar Allah said.

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