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

U.S. shuts down ground forces office in Iraq, as combat against Islamic State ends

Tamer El-Ghobashy writes for The Washington Post:

The headquarters coordinating the activities of American ground forces in Iraq closed down on Monday, marking the end of major combat operations against the Islamic State, said U.S. officials.

About 5,000 American ground forces were stationed in Iraq at the height of the war against the Islamic State that culminated with the reclaiming of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and the self-declared capital of the militants in the country.

The ground troops were there to advise, equip and assist Iraq’s military during the grueling three year fight to claw back the one-third of Iraqi territory that the Islamic State had claimed. They were not involved in active combat but were often seen near field command centers around Mosul, operating surveillance drones or coordinating battlefield logistics with Iraqi commanders.

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15 Years After U.S. Invasion, Some Iraqis Are Nostalgic For Saddam Hussein Era

Jane Arraf writes for NPR:

Before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Gen. Najm al-Jabouri would stand at the border crossing with Turkey and look longingly across the gate.

"As an officer, I had a dream to travel outside of Iraq," he says, sitting in a garden in Saddam Hussein's former palace complex in Mosul. "Sometimes I would go to Ibrahim Khalil gate just to see outside Iraq — to see whether the ground outside Iraq was different from inside Iraq."

For almost every Iraqi, the past 15 years have been full of unimaginable twists and turns. Jabouri is still an Iraqi general, but now he oversees security in Mosul and controls Saddam's former compound. His first trip outside his country wasn't to neighboring Turkey but to the United States.

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Iraq’s Daesh trials bring swift verdicts, almost all guilty

AP reports:

The entire trial lasted just over half an hour. A grey-haired man was led into the defendant’s booth. He fidgeted as the judge read the charges against him: Swearing allegiance to the Daesh group and working for the militants as an employee at a water station.

“Not guilty,” the defendant, Abdullah Al-Jabouri, told the judge in a session of one of Iraq’s counterterrorism courts this week. He said he had worked for Nineveh province’s water department for more than 20 years and stayed at his post when Daesh took over in 2014, but he denied ever swearing allegiance to the group.

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Poverty and lack of services in Iraq force refugees back to the camps

Judit Neurink writes for Deutsche Welle:

"My children collect scrap iron to sell," Abbas Mohammed said, picking up the iron pipe that one of his sons was playing with. The war against the "Islamic State" (IS) group left a lot of scrap lying around in Mosul, and trucks full of it leave the city daily.

Mohammed lives with his wife and six children in a poor part of west Mosul, the part of the city which suffered the most during the battle to evict IS. "Everyone here is tired and poor," he said. "We have no money."

Much of west Mosul lies in ruins, but Mohammed's Al-Amal neighborhood was only partly damaged. When he returned after fleeing the battle, he found the roof of his simple home destroyed. But he has no money for repairs. Like his neighbors, his poverty has grown since the IS occupation and the subsequent war, and nine months after the city was declared liberated their homes remain barely habitable.

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Iraq’s Shiite militias try to convert military victory into political power

Scott Peterson writes for The Christian Science Monitor:

At the entrance to one of Baghdad’s biggest amusement parks is an election banner for Hadi al-Amiri, senior commander of the mainly Shiite militias that helped vanquish Islamic State jihadists and now aim to win Iraqis’ votes.

A guard at the gate shrugs at the banner’s having been given such prominent placement, where hundreds of thousands of voters will see it before parliamentary elections on May 12.

“They own the place,” laughs the guard, tongue-in-cheek, about Iraq’s ubiquitous militias, when asked about the banner at a park run by the Baghdad municipality. “They own everything, so they are free to put it here.”

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Islamic State releases video showing execution of Iraq ‘election advocators’

Reuters reports:

Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency released a video on Friday showing what they said was Islamic State militants shooting “two advocators” for next month’s Iraqi parliamentary elections in the town of al-Tarmiyah, in the Salah al-Din governorate north of Baghdad.

Islamic State said earlier this week that it would attack polling stations in Iraq during parliamentary elections next month and that anyone who participated in the vote would be considered an infidel.

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Iraqi Prime Minister Tries to Bridge Ethnic Divide in Election Campaign

Isabel Coles and Ghassan Adnan write for The Wall Street Journal:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi made a rare visit to the capital of the semiautonomous Kurdish region on Thursday, seeking to burnish his image as a leader for all the country as he campaigns for reelection next month.

It is unprecedented for an Iraqi head of state to campaign in Erbil and demonstrates Mr. Abadi's efforts to secure votes beyond his own Shiite Arab constituency.

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Iraq: Local Forces Banish ISIS Suspects’ Families

Human Rights Watch reports:

Local armed forces in the northern Iraqi district of al-Ba’aj, issued an order in February 2018 that relatives of male Islamic State (also known as ISIS) members could not return, Human Rights Watch said today.

This will prevent hundreds of people, if not thousands, from returning home. Human Rights Watch has interviewed hundreds of other families of ISIS suspects across Iraq who faced similar punishments after ISIS fighters fled.

“The Ba’aj decree is one of the clearest pieces of evidence to date that Iraqi authorities are collectively punishing relatives of ISIS suspects,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Local forces and the central government need to answer for this discrimination.”

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Iraqi Kurdish activists stamping out female genital mutilation

Florian Neuhof writes for The National:

In the home of a village elder in northern Iraq, Kurdistan Rasul is quickly making her presence felt. Moments earlier, Said Abdulwahid had welcomed Mrs Rasul into his living room, from where she was scheduled to talk to the women of Gomasheen village about the hazards of female circumcision, a tradition she has been fighting for years.

But after after driving for hours from the Kurdish capital of Erbil, Mrs Rasul arrived at the village at the foot of the Zagros mountains to find that only four women turned up to hear her talk. But she intends to reach a wider audience. Careful to show respect, she launches into a rapid-fire chatter with fifty year-old Mr Abdulwahid, quick with smiles and jokes, gesturing energetically as she asks him to gather a greater crowd. She also harangues the women to call their friends to join.

Gomasheen is just one small battleground in Mrs Rasul’s greater war against female genital mutilation in the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Whereas the practice is almost non-existent elsewhere in the country, many women in Kurdistan are still subjected to the custom. That young girls are now less likely to be circumcised than their mothers is due in no small part to activists like Mrs Rasul, who is tireless in driving home her message.

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In Iraq’s Anbar, election offers chance to settle scores

Ali Choukeir writes for AFP:

In the vast desert province of Anbar where Islamic State group jihadists first emerged in Iraq, parliamentary elections next month are an opportunity for the predominantly Sunni residents to settle scores.

Many of the new candidates are eager to push out lawmakers they believe minimised the danger of -- or even sympathised with -- the Sunni extremists that stormed across the country in the summer of 2014.

"The political class that existed before IS is no longer suitable. They have lost their credibility with the residents of Anbar," said Rafea al-Fahdawi, who heads the candidate list in the province for the Victory Alliance led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

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