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

Iraq still fighting ISIL, Abadi admits

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi admitted on Wednesday that the country is engaged in a fight against ISIL sleeper cells, a climbdown from repeated claims of the insurgents being defeated.

Mr Abadi declared victory over the terror group in December after security forces drove them out of the last pockets of territory under their control. But recent months have seen ISIL remnants carry out attacks in the north, killing dozens of civilians in an offensive that could disrupt elections in May.

Iraqi and American security officials have repeatedly warned that territory in the north could easily fall back into insurgent hands.

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Fifteen years after America’s invasion, Iraq is doing well

The Economist reports:

It is less than four years since the homicidal zealots of Islamic State (IS) stood on the doorstep of Baghdad, their black flag already fluttering over several other Iraqi cities. The jihadists triumphed, albeit temporarily, because disgruntled Sunnis, former Baathists and others who felt alienated by the rule of Nuri al-Maliki, the Shia prime minister, stood aside. The central government lost control over much of the country. The independence-minded Kurds in the north watched while Iraq fell apart—until IS turned on them, too.

Today things look very different. Iraq has defeated IS and avoided the wave of Shia-on-Sunni violence that many predicted would follow. The number of civilians killed each month in fighting is a fraction of what it was in 2014. The government in Baghdad saw off a premature Kurdish push for independence last year. Oil production is up and the state has money. The power of foreigners, including Iran and America, has diminished as Iraqi politicians have learnt how to play one off against the others. In six weeks Iraq will hold an election, affirming its status as the only Arab democracy east of Tunisia.

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Iraq will prevent militant Kurdish attacks on Turkey: PM Abadi

Reuters reports:

Iraqi armed forces will prevent Kurdish militants based in northern Iraq from staging cross-border attacks against Turkey, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday.

Abadi’s pledge, made during a phone call with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, came a day after Ankara threatened to intervene directly if the Iraqi operation against the militants based in the Sinjar region failed.

Turkey has long complained that fighters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) are being given free rein to operate out of Sinjar against Turkish targets.

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Iraq’s Basra gets business boost from football

AFP reports:

Earlier this month world governing body Fifa finally lifted its prohibition on Iraq hosting competitive internationals - sparking jubilation in the violence-wracked nation.

The news was especially welcome for businesses in Basra, one of three locations now allowed to stage the matches along with holy city Karbala and Kurdish capital Arbil.

The southern city lies at the heart of a key oil-producing region but it is now looking to kick start its tourism sector - and hoping football could help turn it into a winner.

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Militant threat haunts Iraq’s race to revive economy

Erika Solomon writes for Financial Times:

The gruelling, three-year battle to wrest Iraqi territory from ISIS is drawing to a close but a tougher challenge may have just begun: repairing a shattered economy.

Iraq has suffered waves of violence and insurgency since the 2003 US invasion, and politicians and businesses say the government’s ability to address joblessness and poverty, improve the poor delivery of services and tackle corruption will be critical to ensuring stability.

“Investment and security go together,” said Daoud al-Jumaili, head of the Iraqi National Business Council. “When we get the economy moving and combat unemployment, that is when people look to rebuild their lives instead of looking to fight.”

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In ‘city of shanasheel’, Iraqi heritage crumbles from budgetary neglect

Karim Jameel writes for AFP:

As a child, Adnan Khalaf used to marvel at the Iraqi city of Basra's "shanasheel", finely crafted bay windows complete with intricate wooden latticework and ornate stained glass.

Today, the Iraqi retiree can only watch as the hallmarks of his hometown -- "the city of shanasheel" -- crumble out of neglect.

Authorities in Basra, the capital of Iraq's richest oil province, are struggling to provide the bare minimum of services to its inhabitants, as nepotism and corruption divert lucrative revenues from the black gold.

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Results Of A Nationwide Public Opinion Poll On Iraq’s Upcoming Parliamentary Election

1001 Iraqi Thoughts reports:

1001 Iraqi Thoughts commissioned a public opinion survey in Iraq to explore voter trends ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for 12th May 2018. The nationwide poll was conducted between 17-21 March featuring 1,066 telephone interviews across all 18 provinces through randomly selected mobile numbers. Interviews were weighted against population distributions and gender on the provincial level.

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Islamic State Regrouping in Iraqi, Kurdish Disputed Territories

Rikar Hussein writes for Voice of America:

Taking advantage of the rivalry between the central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government, Islamic State is regrouping and increasing deadly attacks in disputed territories across northern Iraq, Kurdish and Iraqi officials warned.

The Iraqi government declared a final victory over IS last December after Iraqi forces drove its last remnants from the country.

IS militants have since reverted to guerrilla warfare tactics, particularly in Kirkuk, northern Saladin and eastern Diyala, where both the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government claim control.

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Iraq in Brief

Christopher M. Blanchard writes for the Congressional Research Service:

Iraq’s government declared military victory against the terrorist insurgents of the Islamic State group (IS, aka ISIS/ISIL) in December 2017, but counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations against the group are ongoing. Iraqis are shifting their attention toward recovery and the country’s political future. Security conditions have improved but remain fluid, and daunting resettlement, reconstruction, and reform needs occupy citizens and decision makers. National legislative elections are scheduled for May 12, 2018, and campaigning reflects issues stemming from the 2014-2017 conflict with the Islamic State as well a range of preexisting internal disputes and governance challenges. Ethnic, religious, regional, and tribal identities remain politically relevant, as do partisanship, personal rivalries, economic disparities, and natural resource imbalances. Iraq’s neighbors and other outsiders continue to pursue their interests in the country, at times cooperatively and at times in competition.

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Rising from the rubble: ‘If we don’t rebuild Mosul, maybe Isis will come back’

Cathy Otten writes for The Guardian:

Even if we work every day for the next six months, we still won’t finish this job – we don’t have enough support or equipment,” says Muhammed Shaban, an officer of the Civil Defence Force in west Mosul, in the exhausted tone of someone who is unable to separate his life from his work.

Shaban and his colleagues were recovering as many as 30 bodies a day in August last year, one month after the fighting ceased. More bodies still lie under the rubble along the banks of the Tigris river, where the last bloody battles were fought. “We are working with our hands and it is so hard,” says Shaban. He is still waiting to be paid.

Thoughts of rebuilding Mosul are far from the minds of the men tasked with recovering the dead. The true number of the lives lost in the battle against Isis here – when, in the final months of the campaign, families trapped by Iraqi forces had no escape from airstrikes and snipers – is not known, but the Associated Press reported nearly 10,000 civilian deaths; the UN found the figure to be 2,521 at a minimum. The old city, once Mosul’s economic centre and beating heart, became a burial chamber.

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