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

Iraq’s Adel Abdul Mahdi: US did not demand Shiite militias be disarmed

Mina Aldroubi reports for The National:

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi denied that he was urged by Washington to disarm Shiite paramilitaries as angry MPs called for the withdrawal of all US troops.

The Shiite fighters, known as the Popular Mobilisation Force, are a group of militias backed by Iran, which the US regards as among the biggest threats to security in the Middle East. The militias became an official unit of Iraq’s security forces after playing a vital role in fighting ISIS after 2014.

Reports claimed that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had asked Baghdad to confiscate weapons held by the 67 militia groups, including Badr, Asab Ahl Al Haq and Saraya Al Salam, that are headed by the influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr.

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Iran Works to Keep Iraq Open for Business

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

Iranian officials traveled to Baghdad this week to push for expanded trade and energy ties as it tries to undercut U.S. efforts to weaken Iraq’s economic links to its neighbor.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is in Iraq this week with a delegation of more than 50 companies. The visit comes a week after Iranian energy officials traveled to Baghdad to discuss strengthening energy links and keeping Iranian natural gas flowing to Iraq, where it accounts for over 40% of the country’s electricity needs.

The visits from top Iranian officials highlight the tightrope that Iraq walks, as competition intensifies between Iran and the U.S. for influence in Iraqi politics and market share of its economy. Iran and the U.S. both helped Iraq defeat Islamic State but are now locked in an economic battle after the Trump administration pulled out of the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions.

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Mosul destroys iconic building used by ISIS for gruesome killings

The National reports:

Only three floors remain of Mosul’s National Insurance Company building, where ISIS killed young men it accused of homosexuality and breaking Islamic law.

While Unesco and Iraqi religious leaders last month laid the cornerstone to rebuild the northern Iraqi city’s famous Al Nuri Mosque and adjacent leaning minaret, other buildings were being torn down.

Demolition work on the National Insurance building began about a month ago, tearing down the remains of one of Mosul’s most important buildings.

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Jordan king visits Iraq for first time in decade

AFP reports:

Jordanian King Abdullah II met Iraq's president and prime minister in Baghdad on Monday, in the monarch's first trip to Iraq in more than a decade.

It is the latest in a string of top-level visits to Iraq in recent weeks, which kicked off with a surprise Christmas trip by US President Donald Trump.

King Abdullah met separately with Iraqi President Barham Saleh, who had travelled to Jordan in November, and Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi, their press offices said.

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France pledges 1B euros in aid to rebuild Iraq

AP reports:

France is committing $1 billion euros ($1.15 billion) to help Iraq rebuild after its war against the Islamic State group, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday.

Le Drian was in Baghdad on a busy day that also saw Iraq's top officials receiving King Abdullah II of Jordan.

The French diplomat said the aid would go to rebuilding Iraq's most devastated areas.

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By necessity or design, Iraqi women launch Mosul firms

AFP reports:

Under the thumb of extremist rule they were deemed minors – unable to do anything without permission from a father or husband – but today women are establishing businesses in Iraq’s Mosul.

In red letters ‘Umm Mustafa and sons’ looms large over a modest grocery, standing out in a sea of shop facades daubed with male proprietors’ names.

“At first some gave me evil looks, but I have no pension and I had no choice but to open my shop,” Umm Mustafa, dressed in black, told AFP.

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As Iraq’s Shiite militias expand their reach, concerns about an ISIS revival grow

Tamer El-Ghobashy and Mustafa Salim write for The Washington Post:

Iraq’s large and well-armed Shiite militias are now running many of the Sunni areas they helped liberate from the Islamic State, fostering local resentments that could fuel a resurgence of support for the extremist group.

After winning nearly a third of the seats in parliamentary elections last year, the Shiite militias, including several ideologically aligned with Iran, are enjoying unprecedented military and political power in Iraq.

Their ascension has raised concerns among Iraqi politicians, Sunni residents and U.S. officials that the militia leaders are creating a parallel state that undermines Iraq’s central government and revives the kind of Sunni grievances that underpinned the Islamic State’s dramatic rise three years ago.

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Kurdistan Region of Iraq: Detained Children Tortured

Human Rights Watch reports:

The Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq is torturing children to confess to involvement with the Islamic State (ISIS), Human Rights Watch said today.

Children told Human Rights Watch that in 2017 and 2018, security officers, known as Asayish, used beatings, stress positions, and electric shock on boys in their custody. Most said they had no access to a lawyer and they were not allowed to read the confessions Asayish wrote and forced them to sign.

“Nearly two years after the Kurdistan Regional Government promised to investigate the torture of child detainees, it is still occurring with alarming frequency,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “The Kurdistan authorities should immediately end all torture of child detainees and investigate those responsible.”

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How the Iraqi crackdown on the Islamic State may actually increase support for the Islamic State

Kristen Kao and Mara Revkin write for The Washington Post:

Last month, President Trump claimed the defeat of the Islamic State as justification for his decision to withdraw American troops from Syria. In 2014, at the height of its reign, the Sunni insurgent group governed an estimated 10 million people and 34,000 square miles of territory.

The Islamic State no longer controls significant territory in Iraq and Syria. But during a visit to Baghdad in December, the question being asked by Iraqi government officials was not if the Islamic State is making a comeback, but how soon the group will again be strong enough to recapture and hold territory.

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Police: Several killed in Baghdad women’s shelter fire

Philip Issa reports for AP:

A fire at a women’s shelter in Baghdad killed several lodgers on Friday, according to police, who gave conflicting accounts of the tragedy.

Baghdad Police Lt. Col. Mohammed Jihad, briefing reporters outside the shelter, called it a “group suicide” caused by women rioting in the shelter. He said several women were suffering from a “deteriorating mental state” and rioted, resulting in the fire that killed six women.

But another officer at the Rusafa police district, where the shelter is located, said the fire started in the kitchen after lodgers got into a fight. The officer, who asked that his name be withheld in line with police regulations, said two women died from stab wounds and seven perished in the fire.

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