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

Four killed in attack on ‘Al-Hal’ Iraqi party headquarters in Anbar province

AFP reports:

A suicide attack targeting a political party headquarters in western Iraq has killed four people and injured seven others, including a candidate in polls set for May, officials said Sunday.

On Saturday evening “two suicide bombers disguised as soldiers entered the Al-Hal Party headquarters,” one of most prominent parties in the Sunni-majority province of Al-Anbar, a local security official told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

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In sadness or anger, Iraq is a country many do not want to go back to

Suha Ma'ayeh writes for The National:

The Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies, in Norway, estimates there were 450,000 to 500,000 Iraqis in Jordan as of May 2007.

But many have returned home and others have resettled in other countries. By the end of December last year, there were 66,000 Iraqis in Jordan registered with the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.

Although parliamentary elections are planned in Iraq next month, the country's stability remains fragile. Citizens such as Mr Jbouri are caught in limbo and lack faith that Iraq can stand on its own feet.

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Counting the Dead in Mosul

Samuel Oakford writes for The Atlantic:

Eighteen months ago, Iraqi forces backed by heavy coalition firepower descended on Mosul, Iraq’s second city and the largest ever controlled by the Islamic State. It took them nine months—well beyond initial estimates—to dislodge the terror group. During that time, strategies changed. Under the Obama administration, more commanders with the U.S.-led coalition were given latitude to call in strikes. When Donald Trump took office, he grew that trend, and embraced so-called “annihilation” tactics. In parallel, Iraqi security forces suffered heavy casualties early in the fight among their elite units, and later operated with fewer restraints. By the time the city was captured in July of last year, it was littered with some eight million tons of rubble—three times the mass of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the UN noted.

The urban fighting in Mosul that began on October 16, 2016 was described by U.S. officials as the most intense since World War II. Backing Iraqi forces on the ground, the U.S.-led coalition, which included a dozen partner countries, carried out more than 1,250 strikes in the city, hitting thousands of targets with over 29,000 munitions, according to official figures provided to us. But in the nine months since the reclamation of Mosul, those involved in the operation have conspicuously neglected to assess how many civilians were killed. There remains no official count of the dead in Mosul.

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KRG Response to War Crimes Allegations in Iraq Falls Short

Belkis Wille writes for Human Rights Watch:

In early February, Human Rights Watch published evidence suggesting Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) security forces carried out mass executions of possibly hundreds of Islamic State (also known as ISIS) suspects who surrendered to military forces in August 2017. The KRG has responded with a 24 page denial of our findings.

The KRG’s response is welcome and stands out in a region where many governments block access to human rights investigators, and refuse to engage with human rights groups. But the KRG ignores key aspects of our report and so far refuses to engage meaningfully with our findings.

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New Hope for Iraq?

Emma Sky writes for Foreign Affairs:

On May 12, Iraqis will head to the polls for parliamentary elections. These elections are coming at a pivotal moment. Since the Iraqi military announced the defeat of the Islamic State (or ISIS) in December 2017, millions of refugees and displaced people have returned to their homes. In Mosul, students are now back in school and the library that ISIS destroyed is open again. Baghdad feels safer than it has at any point since 2003—shopping malls are doing good business, new coffeehouses are opening, and parks are once again full of families.

Iraq has been at a similar crossroads before. In 2010, after the defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq, the sectarian war appeared to be over and both Iraqis and Americans were hopeful that elections would put the country on the path to sustainable peace. But then it all unraveled. Although the incumbent prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who led the State of Law Coalition, did not win the most seats, the Obama administration threw its support behind him. The administration was convinced that Maliki was pro-American and would allow a small contingent of U.S. forces to remain in Iraq when the status of forces agreement between the two countries expired in 2011. They also calculated that maintaining the status quo was the quickest way to ensure that an Iraqi government would be in place ahead of U.S. midterm elections. In practice, however, this decision failed to help Iraq move beyond sectarianism and undermined the notion that change could come about through politics rather than violence.

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Meet the woman who picked up the pen under ISIL’s sword

Florian Neuhof writes for The National:

She was busy learning about dental fillings, crowns and bridges when the fighters of ISIL swept into Mosul and turned her life upside down.

A daily routine of university study was swapped for life indoors, a self-imposed retreat to shut out the dire reality of the caliphate declared by Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi in the northern Iraq city's famous Al Nouri mosque, not far from her home.

Hadeel was desperate for an escape, and she found it in her passion for writing.

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Iraq leader in Japan for talks on peace, reconstruction

Mari Yamaguchi reports for AP:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi sought international support in Japan on Thursday to restore peace and prosperity in his country, torn by extremism.

Al-Abadi co-hosted a meeting in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss ways to improve public safety in Iraq while promoting the country's sustainable economic development.

Abe announced a 35 billion yen ($330 million) loan for irrigation projects in Iraq during talks with al-Abadi later Thursday and pledged Japan's continuing support. The loan is part of Japan's $6 billion pledge to stabilize the Middle East, the source of 80 percent of its oil imports.

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The ISIS Files

Rukmini Callimachi writes for The New York Times:

On five trips to battle-scarred Iraq, journalists for The New York Times scoured old Islamic State offices, gathering thousands of files abandoned by the militants as their ‘caliphate’ crumbled.

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Mosul Artist Paints Over IS Graffiti With Murals of City’s Old Glory

Rikar Hussein writes for Voice of America:

Walid Dabagh travels across the ruins of Mosul, hunting for traces of the Islamic State's reign of terror.

Once he finds it, Dabagh replaces the violent graffiti of the group with beautiful paintings recounting life in Mosul's Old City before it was reduced to rubble in a brutal war.

"I want to revive memories of all this lost heritage," he told VOA. "I want the new generation to know what the Old City was like."

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Iraq grapples with Iranian influence ahead of elections

AP reports:

Iran's influence is looming large as Iraqis prepare to head to the ballot box for parliamentary elections next month, with many in the country worried that Tehran may be seeking to strengthen its political grip in Baghdad.

Iranian support and military advisers helped Baghdad's Shiite-led government beat back ISIL. But with the insurgents now largely defeated militarily, Iran's political clout has emerged as a divisive issue ahead of the polls.

That influence has sowed fear among Iraq's disenchanted minority Sunnis, who bore the brunt of the war's destruction, and has also caused concern in Washington. Despite tensions between the United States and Iran, both remain allies of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi's government.

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