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

Iraq vice president says elections alone will not solve the country’s problems

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq will not solve the crises it faces unless it maintains an inclusive political process, overcomes sectarian divisions and rids itself of foreign interference, the Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi told The National during a visit to Dubai.

On the 12th of May Iraqis will cast their votes in the first parliamentary elections since the country's victory over ISIL. However, the state is still being hindered by issues that are debilitating its democratic process and political independence.

Mr Allawi explained that foreign intrusions in Iraq are obstructing efforts to bridge the sectarian divide and stressed that the country’s political process must be based on a common national identity.

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Competitive soccer finally returns to Iraq on Tuesday

John Duerden reports for AP:

Competitive international soccer returns to Iraq on Tuesday less than a month after FIFA lifted a near three-decade-long ban.

In the group stage of the 2018 AFC Cup, Asia’s second tier club competition, Lebanon’s Al Ahed will travel to the central Iraqi city of Karbala, located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of Baghdad, to take on Al Zawraa.

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As Baghdad life improves, some still seek refuge in its past

Raya Jalabi writes for Reuters:

From his 13th-floor balcony in central Baghdad, Salam Atta Sabri likes to reminisce about his city’s storied past – the years before Saddam Hussein and the U.S.-led invasion which forever changed it.

On an overcast afternoon in spring, the 55-year-old artist pointed to stalwarts of Baghdad’s historic center such as the 13th century palace of the Abbasid caliphs, and the city’s ambling, literary heart around Mutanabbi Street.

Over coffee, he leafed through recent ink drawings of the city. “I remember walking those very streets when I was a boy… before everything changed.”

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Daesh ‘expertise, methods inherited from Iraq army’

AFP reports:

As Iraqi forces battled Daesh, former general Abdel Karim Khalaf came to a sad realization — they were fighting against some of his former army comrades.

The tactics Daesh terrorists used — from the way they dug tunnels to their construction of defenses — were lifted straight from the manual of the old Iraqi armed forces under dictator Saddam Hussein.

“They had expertise and methods inherited from the army,” said retired army commander Khalaf. “They knew us.”

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Fifteen years after Saddam fell, where does Iraq stand now?

Samya Kullab writes for The National:

The years following the US-led invasion became the most violent in Iraq's modern history. A protracted insurgency targeted occupying forces and an interim Iraqi government. Sectarian infighting, long dormant, was unleashed among militias. Kidnappings and killings became common. Shiite and Sunni divisions deepened.

It was far from the promise of American democracy and rule of law that many anticipated would accompany the fall of Saddam’s statue on April 9, 2003.

"I thought the situation would be better, there would be jobs, the country would be free and democratic. But almost immediately after that day I witnessed too many things that hurt me," said Ghilan.

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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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