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

War may be over but Basra’s battle for clean water continues

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

On World Water Day on Friday, Ruqayya is reminded of the pain she suffered last summer after coming into contact with contaminated water in Iraq’s southern province of Basra.

Years of conflict, mass displacement, climate change and under-investment in water networks created a crisis that is affecting large parts of the country, especially the south.

The UN children's agency (Unicef) reported last year at least 50,000 children fell ill in Basra due to the province’s lack of basic services and toxic water.

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Scores dead as ferry sinks in Tigris River near Iraq’s Mosul

Al Jazeera reports:

Scores of people have died after a ferry carrying families celebrating the Nowruz holiday capsized in the Tigris River near the Iraqi city of Mosul, according to officials.

Major General Saad Maan, a spokesman for the interior ministry, said at least 71 people were killed in Thursday's accident. A separate source told Reuters news agency that 72 were confirmed dead.

Another 55 people, including 19 children, were rescued.

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Basra Museum opening sparks hopes of cultural revival in post-war Iraq

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Basra Museum opened its doors to the public this week in another step towards restoring the country's cultural heritage damaged in conflicts dating back almost four decades to the war with Iran.

The museum in Basra had been closed since 1991, when it was among nine museums looted by mobs opposed to dictator Saddam Hussein at the close of the first Gulf War. Now, with the assistance of the British Museum and other organisations, thousands of artefacts dating back as far as 6000BC are back on display in the southern province.

The collection, housed in a former palace of the late dictator, covers Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian and Islamic periods of Iraq’s history.

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Iraq Prepares to Evict U.S. Troops

Geneive Abdo writes for Foreign Policy:

Momentum is building among deputies in the Iraqi parliament to oust U.S. troops entirely from the country—an outcome that would leave Iraq’s political future in the hands of neighboring Iran and leave its citizens more vulnerable to the Islamic State.

Today, the United States fields an estimated 5,200 troops in Iraq. They are there as part of a security agreement with the Iraqi government to advise, assist, and support that country’s troops in the fight against the Islamic State. But the Iraqi parliament is expected to vote soon on draft laws calling for a full withdrawal. For now, things don’t look good for the troops.

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They Go to the Desert to Hunt for Truffles. But ISIS Is Hunting Them.

Alissa J. Rubin writes for The New York Times:

As he hunted for a seasonal delicacy, Mohaned Salah Yasseen scanned the ground intently, searching for places where the soil is cracked and slightly raised — the telltale sign a desert truffle lies below.

So he failed to notice the two pickup trucks, driven by men in military uniforms, until they were almost upon him.

The abductions are only a fraction of the Islamic State attacks now taking place in Iraq, where every day brings one or more reports of a checkpoint shooting, skirmish or kidnapping. But the attacks on truffle hunters reflect a renewed emphasis on inciting sectarian tensions.

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U.S. Pressures Iraq Over Embrace of Militias Linked to Iran

Edward Wong and Eric Schmitt write for The New York Times:

The United States’ attempts to isolate Iran, including by punishing Iraqi militias and politicians who are supported by Iranian officials, has deepened tensions not only between Washington and Baghdad but also within the Trump administration.

American military and intelligence officials said the increasing pressure on Iraq risks infuriating its Parliament, including politicians linked to Iran, which could limit the movements of the 5,200 United States troops based in Iraq.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose confrontational stand on Iran has already strained ties with European allies, is leading the push for Iraq to confront its fellow Shiite-majority neighbor. He arrived in the Middle East on Tuesday to speak with officials in Kuwait, Israel and Lebanon about containing Iran.

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Iraq begins exhuming mass grave in Sinjar region

Salar Salim reports for AP:

The Iraqi government has started exhuming a mass grave left behind by the Islamic State group in the northwestern Sinjar region in the presence of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad, whose slain relatives are believed to have been buried in the area.

The exhumation, which is being carried out with U.N. support, began Friday in the village of Kocho. Murad’s official website said it marks the first exhumation of a mass grave containing the remains of Yazidis, a religious minority targeted for extermination by the extremists.

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Freed From ISIS, Few Yazidis Return To Suffering Families, Many Remain Missing

Jane Arraf writes for NPR:

Mazen looks like he wants to disappear into his gray hoody as he sits in the corner of a tent in a camp for displaced Yazidis in Iraq. The 13-year-old boy's eyes are haunted and huge in a face still gaunt from not getting enough to eat.

After almost five years held captive by ISIS, Mazen says he wants to talk about what happened to him but he doesn't have the words.

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In Mosul’s enduring rubble, fertile soil for an ISIS revival?

Scott Peterson writes for The Christian Science Monitor:

Nearly two years after the liberation of Mosul from Islamic State militants, what hasn’t changed is that much of Iraq’s second city remains rubble, with limited services and little rebuilding.

What has changed is that the high expectations from that July 2017 liberation – of a post-ISIS renaissance in Mosul bolstered by an infusion of Western and Iraqi government cash and goodwill – are receding as frustration sets in.

Instead of hope, in fact, there is growing concern among Iraqis, Western officials, and aid groups alike that the lack of palpable progress in Mosul and in several Sunni-dominated provinces risks rekindling the anti-government, pro-ISIS ideology.

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Key Courts Improve ISIS Trial Procedures

Human Rights Watch reports:

Prosecutions of Islamic State (ISIS) suspects in Iraq are proceeding based on a deeply flawed and vague counterterrorism law, but the Nineveh governorate’s counterterrorism court has made improvements in recent months, Human Rights Watch said today.

Following a December 2017 Human Rights Watch report, judges in the Nineveh governorate in northern Iraq are requiring a higher evidentiary standard to detain and prosecute suspects, minimizing the court’s reliance on confessions alone, erroneous wanted lists, and unsubstantiated allegations.

“What we see in Nineveh is a significant shift in the way that prosecutions are proceeding,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Throwing out cases with flimsy or no evidence is a step forward, but more work is needed to ensure defendants are not mistreated and get fair trials.”

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