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

School Doors Barred to Many Children

Human Rights Watch reports:

The Iraqi government is denying thousands of children whose parents have a perceived Islamic State (also known as ISIS) affiliation of their right to access an education, Human Rights Watch said today. The children, who were born or lived in areas under the control of ISIS between 2014 and 2017, lack the civil documentation the Iraqi government requires for school enrollment and the government is making it difficult for them to acquire it.

A September 2018 document signed by senior Education Ministry officials endorsed a discussion that appears to allow children missing civil documentation to enroll in school. But officials are instructing school principals and aid groups providing support services for education that undocumented children are still barred from enrolling in government schools.

“Denying children their right to education because of something their parents might have done is a grossly misguided form of collective punishment,” said Lama Fakih, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “It undermines any potential government efforts to counter extremist ideology by pushing these children to the margins of society.”

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Explosion in Iraq near Shiite mosque kills 3, wounds dozens

Murtada Faraj reports for AP:

A motorcycle rigged with explosives went off near a Shiite mosque south of the capital Baghdad, killing three people and wounding 34, Iraqi security officials said Saturday.

The officials said the blast happened the previous evening on a commercial street in the village of Mussayyib. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it targeted “gatherings of Shiites” near a Shiite mosque.

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Strikes on Iran-backed militias threaten to destabilize Iraq

Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Lolita Baldor write for AP:

An Israeli airstrike on an Iranian weapons depot in Iraq, confirmed by U.S. officials, is threatening to destabilize security in the volatile country that has struggled to remain neutral in the conflict between Washington and Tehran.

It would be the first known Israeli airstrike in Iraq since 1981, when Israeli warplanes destroyed a nuclear reactor being built by Saddam Hussein, and significantly expands Israel’s campaign against Iranian military involvement in the region.

The July 19 attack targeted a base belonging to Iranian-backed paramilitary forces in Amirli in the northern Salaheddin province, and killed two Iranians. The attack was followed by at least two other mysterious explosions at munitions depot near Baghdad belonging to the militias.

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Blasts hit militia group position at Iraq’s Balad air base: security sources

Reuters reports:

Several blasts hit a position held by Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitaries next to Balad air base north of Baghdad on Tuesday, an Iraqi military official and a source in a paramilitary group said.

It was one of a series of explosions in recent weeks at weapons depots, bases or positions belonging to factions within the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), Iraq’s umbrella of mostly Shi’ite Muslim paramilitary groups.

Balad base hosts U.S. forces and contractors and is located about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad. A PMF group backed by Iran is stationed nearby.

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ISIS Is Regaining Strength in Iraq and Syria

Eric Schmitt, Alissa J. Rubin and Thomas Gibbons-Neff write for The New York Times:

Five months after American-backed forces ousted the Islamic State from its last shard of territory in Syria, the terrorist group is gathering new strength, conducting guerrilla attacks across Iraq and Syria, retooling its financial networks and targeting new recruits at an allied-run tent camp, American and Iraqi military and intelligence officers said.

Though President Trump hailed a total defeat of the Islamic State this year, defense officials in the region see things differently, acknowledging that what remains of the terrorist group is here to stay.

A recent inspector general’s report warned that a drawdown this year from 2,000 American forces in Syria to less than half of that, ordered by Mr. Trump, has meant the American military has had to cut back support for Syrian partner forces fighting ISIS. For now, American and international forces can only try to ensure that ISIS remains contained and away from urban areas.

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Food on the frontline: finding common ground through cooking

Tim Lewis writes for The Guardian:

Giles Duley, a 47-year-old photographer, is no stranger to some of the world’s most desperate places. His work on the impact of war has taken him to Lebanon, South Sudan, Ukraine and Afghanistan, where in 2011 he lost both legs and his left arm after stepping on a landmine. But his experience in Mosul, Iraq, in the spring of 2017, covering the fallout of the military campaign to retake the city from Islamic State, was something else.

“I saw some of the worst things I’d ever seen in terms of war – just horrific things,” says Duley, shaking his head. “It was overwhelming and I came back in quite a dark place from that trip. It was shut the curtains, I don’t want to speak to anyone. And I just started cooking, I started making pasta and bread. I realised that was therapy for me, because when you’ve got those dark thoughts and you’ve seen children injured, you can put the television on or you can read a book, but you are still thinking about those things. You can’t get away from them. But I found cooking was the one time I did, because I think it’s the manual tasks: you are lost in that moment.

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Iraq takes security measures following mysterious blasts

Qassim Abdul-Zahra writes for AP:

Iraq on Thursday banned unauthorized flights and ordered all military camps and munitions warehouses to be moved outside Iraqi cities following a massive explosion at a munitions depot southwest of Baghdad that killed one civilian and wounded 13 earlier this week.

The exact cause of Monday night’s explosion at the al-Saqr military base is still unknown. The blast shook the Iraqi capital and sent explosives and mortar shells shooting into the sky, damaging nearby homes and terrifying residents who ran into the streets with their cellphones. Black smoke billowed over the city for hours afterward.

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ISIS: Forgotten But Not Gone

Megan O'Dwyer writes for Small Wars Journal:

Despite complete territory loss in recent months, ISIS still has plenty of life left, and its predecessors have recovered from far more difficult situations in the past. ISIS has more manpower, money, and reliable networks than it ever had before it began controlling territory. Considering how successful the group became with less resources, its current status should still be very worrisome. Combine these factors with diminishing interest from policymakers,impending critical infrastructure shortages in Iraq, inadequate reconstruction funds to Sunni-dominated areas, and ISIS’s history of co-opting civil unrest, and suddenly an ISIS resurgence doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

The group originally emerged as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in 2003 after capitalizing on sectarian tensions and conflict brought on by the U.S invasion. However, a series of AQI bombings in 2005 targeting civilian Muslims alienated its key demographic, and the U.S.-funded Awakening Movement — an initiative which armed Sunni tribes frustrated with AQI’s brutal tactics and attempts to govern — nearly destroyed the group in the late 2000s. Despite near annihilation and a fraction of the support that the group has today, AQI reemerged as the Islamic State (IS) with shocking success in 2014.

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Winning the Peace in Iraq

Linda Robinson writes for Foreign Affairs:

For Americans who came of age near the turn of the current century, the war in Iraq was a generation-defining experience. When the United States invaded the country in 2003, toppling the government of Saddam Hussein in a matter of weeks, many saw the war as a necessary or even noble endeavor to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, which Saddam was allegedly developing—and bring democracy to parts of the world that had long suffered under the weight of tyranny.

By the time U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq in 2011, such illusions had been shattered. The conflict had cost the United States $731 billion, claimed the lives of at least 110,000 Iraqis and nearly 5,000 U.S. troops, and done lasting damage to Washington’s international reputation. The invasion had sparked a virulent insurgency that was only barely quelled by 2011, and which resurfaced following the U.S. withdrawal, when a vicious jihadist group calling itself the Islamic State (or ISIS) seized an area the size of Iceland in western Iraq and eastern Syria. Most Americans who have been to Iraq remember car bombs and streets lined with ten-foot-tall concrete blast walls. For those who have never been, Iraq is less a place than a symbol of imperial hubris—a tragic mistake that they would prefer to forget.

Yet Iraq today is a different country. Few Americans understand the remarkable success of Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. campaign to defeat ISIS. Some 7,000 U.S. troops (and 5,000 more from 25 countries in the anti-ISIS coalition) provided support to Iraq’s army and local partners in Syria, who fought to free their towns, cities, and provinces from ISIS’ brutal grip. By the time these U.S.-backed forces had ejected ISIS from its final territorial stronghold, in Syria, in March of this year, the campaign had liberated 7.7 million people at the relatively modest cost of $31.2 billion. Today, Iraqi schools are open, Baghdad’s nightlife is vibrant, and security checkpoints have been removed.

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Ordeal continues for Shiite Turkmen women kidnapped by ISIS

Lizzie Porter writes for The National:

On a hot night at the beginning of July, Ceylan climbed onto the roof of her aunt’s house.

The 17-year-old, who asked that her real name not be used, was one of about 450 Shiite Turkmen women and girls kidnapped from Tal Afar by ISIS militants as they overran northern Iraq five years ago this month.

The few who have returned – just 44 so far, 22 of them young women and girls like Ceylan – tell of being subjected to similar sexual abuse as that which ISIS inflicted on thousands of women from Iraq’s Yazidi community.

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