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

UN team unearths 12 mass graves in Iraq probe of IS crimes

AFP reports:

A UN team investigating the massacre of Iraq's Yazidi minority and other atrocities has excavated 12 mass graves and is collecting witness accounts that could be used in Iraqi and other national courts, according to a UN report seen by AFP on Monday.

The Security Council agreed in 2017 to establish the UN probe to ensure the Islamic State group faces justice for war crimes in Iraq and Syria -- a cause championed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad and international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.

In the report sent to the council, the head of the team, British lawyer Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, said efforts were focused on three initial investigations: the 2014 massacre of Yazidis, crimes committed in Mosul from 2014 to 2016, and the mass killing of Iraqi military recruits in the Tikrit area in June 2014.

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As U.S.-Iran tension simmers, rocket fired near Iraq’s U.S. Embassy

Ahmed Rasheed and Ahmed Aboulenein report for Reuters:

A rocket was fired into the Iraqi capital Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses government buildings and diplomatic missions, on Sunday night, falling near the U.S. Embassy but causing no casualties, the Iraqi military said.

The attack came two weeks after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iraqi leaders during a surprise visit to Baghdad that if they failed to keep in check Iran-backed militias, which are expanding their power in Iraq and now form part of its security apparatus, the United States would respond with force.

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Iraq accuses ISIS of setting fire to hundreds of acres of farmland

Mina Aldroubi reports for The National:

Iraq’s Ministry of Commerce accused ISIS on Sunday of destroying hundreds of agricultural fields across the country, raising fears that the extremist group is stepping up activity.

The group allegedly set fire to 500 acres of wheat and barley farms in the eastern province of Diyala on Saturday and destroyed further further fields in the northern province of Nineveh.

Local media reported that the burning of fields was part of an extortion racket in which ISIS members demanded money from farmers.

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Once again, Iraq caught up in tensions between US and Iran

Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Bassem Mroue report for AP:

When U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sat down with Iraqi officials in Baghdad last week as tensions mounted between America and Iran, he delivered a nuanced message: If you’re not going to stand with us, stand aside.

The message, relayed to The Associated Press by two Iraqi government officials, underscores Iraq’s delicate position: Its government is allied with both sides of an increasingly contentious confrontation.

As tensions escalate, there are concerns that Baghdad could once again get caught in the middle, just as it is on the path to recovery. The country hosts more than 5,000 U.S. troops, and is home to powerful Iranian-backed militias, some of whom want those U.S. forces to leave.

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Iraq, Fearing Another U.S. War, Warns Militias Against Provocation

Alissa J. Rubin writes for The New York Times:

In the Trump administration’s recent bellicose talk about Iran, Iraqis hear eerie echoes of the months just before the American invasion of Iraq.

Iraqi officials, wary of another war on their land, say they have warned armed groups tied to Iran to refrain from taking any action that could provoke American retaliation.

“The last two days there have been continuous meetings with all the groups to convey the Iraqi government’s message that if anyone does something, it is their responsibility, not Iraq’s,” said Sayed al-Jayashi, a senior member of Iraq’s National Security Council.

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Born under IS, sick Iraqi children left undocumented, untreated

Maya Gebeily writes for AFP:

No documents? No doctor. Without state-issued IDs, Iraqi mothers struggle to have children born under the now-defeated Islamic State group treated for conditions ranging from asthma to epilepsy.

"It's unjust," said Salima, a 36-year-old mother of four living in the Laylan 2 displacement camp in northern Iraq.

Three of her children were born under IS rule and cannot go to school or leave the camp because they lack state-issued identity papers -- including Abdulkarim, who was struggling to nap in her lap on a muggy afternoon.

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US State Department orders all non-essential government personnel to leave Iraq

The National reports:

The US State Department ordered all "non-emergency US government employees" to leave Iraq, the US mission there said on Wednesday.

The embassy said it could provide only limited emergency services to US citizens. Normal visa services at US offices in Baghdad and Erbil would be suspended.

US Central Command said on Tuesday that there is an increased risk to American forces and allies from Iranian-backed militias in the region. This ran counter to an assessment by a senior British general in the US-led mission to defeat ISIS who suggested there was no increased threat from Iranian proxies.

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In Iraq, Academics Restock Mosul’s Barren Bookshelves

AFP reports:

Watheq Mahmud is pursuing an advanced engineering degree but the textbooks he needs are often missing in his native Mosul, the Iraqi city where jihadists burned volumes and destroyed libraries.

To track down the books, he has had to travel 400 kilometres south to Baghdad, and even a further 600 kilometres to Basra.

"Everything is reversed today. Mosul used to be the hub for students and researchers from all across Iraq and the Arab world," said Mahmud, 33.

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Their caliphate gone, hidden militants wage nighttime war

Bram Janssen writes for AP:

It was a chilly January evening, and Khadija Abd and her family had just finished supper at their farm when the two men with guns burst into the room.

One wore civilian clothes, the other an army uniform. They said they were from the Iraqi army's 20th Division, which controls the northern Iraqi town of Badoush. In fact, they were Islamic State group militants who had come down from the surrounding mountains into Badoush with one thing on their mind: Revenge.

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Widows of Iraq’s war pick up the threads of fragmented lives

Kawa Omar writes for Reuters:

In a workshop in a bombed-out factory in Mosul, Najlaa Abdelrahman joins scores of other women on a production line as they sew garments and try to knit their lives back together.

The mother of three lost her husband during the war against jihadist group Islamic State, which occupied the northern Iraqi city as the capital of its self-declared caliphate until government forces recaptured it in summer 2017.

Most of the site was destroyed in the fighting, but the International Organization for Migration has managed to restore one section, where around 150 people - of whom 80% are women - now work, a fraction of the 1,020 it used to employ.

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