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

Iraq’s football fans enjoy first international club tie since ban

AFP reports:

The match might have ended 1-1, but for Iraqi football fans Tuesday's tie between Baghdad's Al Zawraa and Beirut's Al Ahed will be one for the record books.

It was the first international competitive club game to be played on Iraqi soil in more than 20 years after Fifa lifted a ban on the war-torn country.

"The world saw that Iraq was at the level and that it had the capacity to host a championship," fan Ali Essam said.

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Iraqi boat-makers struggle to keep their trade afloat

Wassim Bassem writes for Al Monitor:

When Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi paid a visit to the Iraqi marshlands in September 2017, photos showed him on a mashoof, the traditional narrow canoe that has been in use in the region for centuries. Yet the boat, a symbol of transportation in this UNESCO-protected area, may well be the part of the region’s heritage on the verge of extinction.

The owner of a mashoof boat, Razaq Jabbar, a traditionally dressed man with a sunburnt, wrinkled face, told the media March 25 that he was proud to take the Iraqi prime minister on his boat. Jabbar is one of the few dozen skilled artisans who continue to build these boats, and he might be the last in his family to continue the trade.

According to the head of the Chibayish Tourism Organization, Raad Habib al-Asadi, there are less than 50 mashoof manufacturers in southern Iraq who continue their craft. They are located mostly in the towns of Basra, Hillah and Kufa, where vast rivers and swamps are found.

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Traumatized, IS Children Mourn as World Celebrates Their Loss

Heather Murdock writes for Voice of America:

"The children feel lonely because their father is gone," says Hassiba, who is raising her seven children alone in a desert camp outside of Mosul. "Other children beat them, saying, 'Your father was a terrorist.'"

Her husband was an accused Islamic State fighter. He is either in jail or dead, but she doesn't know which. Abdul Kareem, her 12-year-old son, now provides the family's only income by transporting random items in his cart. On his best days, he makes about $2.

Abdul Kareem is among tens of thousands of Iraqi children whose fathers were accused militants, arrested or killed in Islamic State's losing battle. And while these children mourn, the rest of the world celebrates their loss.

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Al Sadr says Iraq-Turkey agreement against PKK is unlikely

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Muqtada Al Sadr, the influential Iraqi Shiite cleric, disputed claims that Turkey and Baghdad are in agreement over launching a military operation against Kurdish insurgents in the country's north.

Last month Turkey raised the prospect of direct military intervention against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militia - an armed group that has been waging an insurgency against Ankara for decades.

“They [Turkey] said it was in coordination with the government of Iraq, but I doubt it,” the cleric and politician said on Monday evening.

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Iraq to take ‘all necessary measures’ to prevent Islamic State attacks from Syria, PM says

Reuters reports:

Iraq will take “all the necessary measures” to prevent cross-border attacks by Islamic State militants in Syria, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday.

Last year Iraqi warplanes carried out at least one strike on Islamic State targets inside Syria, in coordination with the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition and with the approval of the Syrian government.

“Daesh are present in eastern Syria, at the Iraqi border. I will take all necessary measures if they threaten the security Iraq,” Abadi told a news conference in Baghdad. He said he had communicated this position to U.S President Donald Trump on the telephone on Sunday.

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Iraq vice president says elections alone will not solve the country’s problems

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq will not solve the crises it faces unless it maintains an inclusive political process, overcomes sectarian divisions and rids itself of foreign interference, the Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi told The National during a visit to Dubai.

On the 12th of May Iraqis will cast their votes in the first parliamentary elections since the country's victory over ISIL. However, the state is still being hindered by issues that are debilitating its democratic process and political independence.

Mr Allawi explained that foreign intrusions in Iraq are obstructing efforts to bridge the sectarian divide and stressed that the country’s political process must be based on a common national identity.

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Competitive soccer finally returns to Iraq on Tuesday

John Duerden reports for AP:

Competitive international soccer returns to Iraq on Tuesday less than a month after FIFA lifted a near three-decade-long ban.

In the group stage of the 2018 AFC Cup, Asia’s second tier club competition, Lebanon’s Al Ahed will travel to the central Iraqi city of Karbala, located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of Baghdad, to take on Al Zawraa.

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As Baghdad life improves, some still seek refuge in its past

Raya Jalabi writes for Reuters:

From his 13th-floor balcony in central Baghdad, Salam Atta Sabri likes to reminisce about his city’s storied past – the years before Saddam Hussein and the U.S.-led invasion which forever changed it.

On an overcast afternoon in spring, the 55-year-old artist pointed to stalwarts of Baghdad’s historic center such as the 13th century palace of the Abbasid caliphs, and the city’s ambling, literary heart around Mutanabbi Street.

Over coffee, he leafed through recent ink drawings of the city. “I remember walking those very streets when I was a boy… before everything changed.”

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Daesh ‘expertise, methods inherited from Iraq army’

AFP reports:

As Iraqi forces battled Daesh, former general Abdel Karim Khalaf came to a sad realization — they were fighting against some of his former army comrades.

The tactics Daesh terrorists used — from the way they dug tunnels to their construction of defenses — were lifted straight from the manual of the old Iraqi armed forces under dictator Saddam Hussein.

“They had expertise and methods inherited from the army,” said retired army commander Khalaf. “They knew us.”

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Fifteen years after Saddam fell, where does Iraq stand now?

Samya Kullab writes for The National:

The years following the US-led invasion became the most violent in Iraq's modern history. A protracted insurgency targeted occupying forces and an interim Iraqi government. Sectarian infighting, long dormant, was unleashed among militias. Kidnappings and killings became common. Shiite and Sunni divisions deepened.

It was far from the promise of American democracy and rule of law that many anticipated would accompany the fall of Saddam’s statue on April 9, 2003.

"I thought the situation would be better, there would be jobs, the country would be free and democratic. But almost immediately after that day I witnessed too many things that hurt me," said Ghilan.

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