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

No plan for Mosul: chaos and neglect slow Iraqi city’s recovery

John Davison writes for Reuters:

The demolition of a wrecked building in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul where Islamic State used to execute men they said were gay is already in its third month.

The digger on top of the building is hired for $300 a day, a laborer at the site said. It often stands idle.

The regional governor denies allegations of fraud and says not enough money is coming to his office to fund rehabilitation.

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Iraqi president hits back at Trump over US army presence

Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports for AP:

Iraq's president hit back at Donald Trump Monday for saying U.S. troops should stay in Iraq to keep an eye on neighboring Iran, saying the U.S. leader did not ask for Iraq's permission to do so.

"We find these comments strange," said Barham Salih, speaking at a forum in Baghdad.

Trump's comments added to concerns in Iraq about America's long-term intentions, particularly after it withdraws its troops from Syria. Trump has angered Iraqi politicians and Iranian-backed factions by arguing he would keep U.S. troops in Iraq and use it as a base to strike Islamic State group targets inside Syria as needed.

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In Mosul exhibition, Iraqi artists process brutal rule of Islamic State

Ayat Basma writes for Reuters:

A raven perched on the shoulder of a woman with flaming hair is Iraqi artist Marwan Fathi’s symbol for the terrible events he and his home city Mosul have had to endure.

Fathi’s work is on display in “Return to Mosul” - the city’s first art exhibition since before it was seized by Islamic State, whose ultra hardline version of Sunni Islam prohibits most art forms.

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Trump Calls for Keeping Troops in Iraq to Watch Iran, Possibly Upending ISIS Fight

Eric Schmitt and Alissa J. Rubin write for The New York Times:

President Trump plans to keep United States troops in Iraq to monitor and maintain pressure on neighboring Iran, committing to an American military presence in the region’s war zones even as he moves to withdraw forces from Syria and Afghanistan.

“I want to be able to watch Iran,” Mr. Trump said in an interview aired Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “We’re going to keep watching and we’re going to keep seeing and if there’s trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we’re going to know it before they do.”

Mr. Trump’s comments come as the United States has quietly been negotiating with Iraq for weeks to allow perhaps hundreds of American commandos and support troops now operating in Syria to shift to bases in Iraq and strike the Islamic State from there. Military leaders are seeking to maintain pressure on the militant group as the president fundamentally reorders policy toward Syria and toward Afghanistan, where peace talks with the Taliban are underway.

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Iraq Fortifies Syrian Border to Keep Out Islamic State Militants

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

As U.S.-backed forces close in on Islamic State’s last territory in Syria, some militants are fleeing to Iraq—using longstanding smuggling networks and posing as nomadic shepherds to slip through the border, according to Iraqi officials.

Iraq has rushed to reinforce its Syrian frontier amid concerns that Islamic State members will regroup here and threaten the country's security, military officials said. In recent weeks, the officials said, Baghdad - which fought a yearslong, devastating war to oust Islamic State from Iraq - has sent more troops to the border and used artillery and war planes to strike Islamic State fighters inside Syrian territory.

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Russia vows to help Iraq battle terrorism after US withdrawal from Syria

Mina Aldroubi reports for The National:

Russia pledged on Wednesday to support Iraq in fighting ISIS and to re-establish security ties between the two states, especially as the US plans to withdraw troops from Syria.

Baghdad declared victory against ISIS in December 2017. The group seized a third of the country in nearly three years ago, but since losing the majority of its caliphate, the group has maintained sleeper cells and resorted to guerrilla tactics.

“We are interested in actively helping you tackle this challenge. Let us discuss all these matters,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed Al Hakim on Wednesday.

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Its treasures ruined by IS, Mosul museum hosts modern art

AFP reports:

Mosul's celebrated museum has not recovered since Islamic State group jihadists ravaged its ancient treasures several years ago, but part of the complex reopened Tuesday to showcase more contemporary art.

For the first time since IS overran the Iraqi city in 2014, visitors on Tuesday could wander the grandiose royal reception hall, which forms part of the museum.

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Iraqis amid Mosul’s silent ruins fear the loss of a dialect

Sam Kimball writes for AP:

For centuries, residents of Mosul have spoken a unique form of Arabic enriched by the Iraqi city’s long history as a crossroads of civilization, a singsong dialect that many now fear will die out after years of war and displacement.

Much of Mosul’s Old City, where speakers of the dialect are concentrated, was completely destroyed in the war against the Islamic State group. Thousands of residents were killed in months of heavy fighting, and tens of thousands fled, taking with them the city’s local patois and memories of its more cosmopolitan past.

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At Baghdad workshop, the search for Iraq’s looted artifacts gets serious

Ayat Basma writes for Reuters:

Before Islamic State militants were dislodged from Iraq in 2017, they stole thousands of ancient artifacts. Most are still missing, and an international team of archaeologists is turning detective to recover as many as possible.

In 2014 and 2015, during its occupation of most of the country, the jihadist group raided and wrecked historical sites on what UNESCO called an “industrial” scale, using the loot to fund its operations through a smuggling network extending through the Middle East and beyond.

“We’re trying to recover a lot of artifacts and need all local and international resources to work. Iraq cannot do this on its own,” said Bruno Deslandes, a conservation architect at the U.N. cultural agency.

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After 15 bloody years, Baghdad is back, but badly wounded

Nabih Bulos writes for Los Angeles Times:

For weeks now, Capt. Ghassan Ghani and his team of workers, cranes and long-bed trucks have stripped away what has been a fixture of this city since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion: the 12-foot concrete barriers lining Baghdad’s major roads and buildings as protection from suicide car bomb attacks.

Ghani supervised one Tuesday evening as a crane lifted one of the slabs, known as T-walls, that had long hulked over a road in downtown Baghdad. As the T-wall swung away, a shock of green emerged — an unkempt swath of palm trees adorning the corner of a government building.

It’s another sign of a city shedding off the vestiges of 15 blood-soaked years that made Baghdad’s name a byword for death, and which culminated last year in the destruction of the militant group Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq.

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