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

Iraq leader in Japan for talks on peace, reconstruction

Mari Yamaguchi reports for AP:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi sought international support in Japan on Thursday to restore peace and prosperity in his country, torn by extremism.

Al-Abadi co-hosted a meeting in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss ways to improve public safety in Iraq while promoting the country's sustainable economic development.

Abe announced a 35 billion yen ($330 million) loan for irrigation projects in Iraq during talks with al-Abadi later Thursday and pledged Japan's continuing support. The loan is part of Japan's $6 billion pledge to stabilize the Middle East, the source of 80 percent of its oil imports.

Click here for the entire story

The ISIS Files

Rukmini Callimachi writes for The New York Times:

On five trips to battle-scarred Iraq, journalists for The New York Times scoured old Islamic State offices, gathering thousands of files abandoned by the militants as their ‘caliphate’ crumbled.

Click here for the entire story

Mosul Artist Paints Over IS Graffiti With Murals of City’s Old Glory

Rikar Hussein writes for Voice of America:

Walid Dabagh travels across the ruins of Mosul, hunting for traces of the Islamic State's reign of terror.

Once he finds it, Dabagh replaces the violent graffiti of the group with beautiful paintings recounting life in Mosul's Old City before it was reduced to rubble in a brutal war.

"I want to revive memories of all this lost heritage," he told VOA. "I want the new generation to know what the Old City was like."

Click here for the entire story

Iraq grapples with Iranian influence ahead of elections

AP reports:

Iran's influence is looming large as Iraqis prepare to head to the ballot box for parliamentary elections next month, with many in the country worried that Tehran may be seeking to strengthen its political grip in Baghdad.

Iranian support and military advisers helped Baghdad's Shiite-led government beat back ISIL. But with the insurgents now largely defeated militarily, Iran's political clout has emerged as a divisive issue ahead of the polls.

That influence has sowed fear among Iraq's disenchanted minority Sunnis, who bore the brunt of the war's destruction, and has also caused concern in Washington. Despite tensions between the United States and Iran, both remain allies of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi's government.

Click here for the entire story

Iraq Struggles to Exhume and Identify Slaughtered Victims of Islamic State

Isabel Coles and Ali Nabhan write for The Wall Street Journal:

Bone by bone, workers at the Baghdad morgue are piecing together the victims of Islamic State, a gruesome jigsaw puzzle that has overwhelmed Iraqi authorities and delayed a sense of closure for families of the missing.

After decades of conflict, culminating in Islamic State’s brutal three-year reign over the country’s north, Iraq has one of the highest number of missing people—and unidentified bodies—anywhere. Yet only 25 people in the country have been trained in scientific exhumation techniques, and the morgue attached to the single Baghdad laboratory equipped to conduct DNA tests is running out of space to store remains. Those limited resources have been further strained by the economic crisis curbing Iraq’s budget.

Click here for the entire story

Iraqi ex-soldiers make miniature models to stay in touch with army days

Reuters reports:

A small group of Iraqis including a soldier who fought in the civil war have turned to model making to deal with their memories of conflict and maintain touch with the military phase of their lives.

It’s an unusual hobby but former soldier Radhwan al-Hassnawi, 28, says he wants to pay tribute to his comrades through the models, which are called dioramas.

His dioramas depict military scenes from the war that began in 2003 when a coalition led by the United States invaded to topple Saddam Hussein. It drew in Sunni and Shia militias and al Qaeda and became a sectarian and political struggle in which hundreds of thousands died and all sides committed atrocities.

Click here for the entire story

Iraqi elections to test Saudi rapprochement

Arwa Ibrahim writes for Al Jazeera:

Saudi Arabia's courting of Iraq's Shia religious and political leaders over the past year has marked a clear shift in Riyadh's policies towards Baghdad. But this rapprochement can go in one of two directions, according to analysts.

Riyadh's efforts to engage Shia allies in Iraq could either defuse sectarianism across the country, or it could turn Iraq into another stage for Iranian-Saudi rivalries.

With politicians taking part in Iraq's parliamentary elections in May hoping to form diverse, cross-sectarian coalitions, the vote stands to test whether Riyadh's moves in Baghdad will gain enduring favour.

Click here for the entire story

Ahead Of Iraq’s Elections, Muqtada Al-Sadr Reinvents Himself — Again

Jane Arraf writes for NPR:

In 2003, as U.S. forces entered Baghdad, Muqtada al-Sadr was a young Shiite Muslim cleric, little known to the American troops who toppled Saddam Hussein and ushered in a tumultuous new Iraq.

As liberation turned into occupation, Sadr, the son of a revered grand ayatollah killed for opposing Saddam, compiled a militia that presented such a serious challenge to American forces, the U.S. vowed to kill or capture him.

That was the old Muqtada al-Sadr — responding to the needs of the times, his loyalists say. Fifteen years later, Sadr, now 44, has taken another dramatic turn — reaching out to powerful Sunni Muslim countries, distancing himself from Iran and effectively burning down his own political movement.

Click here for the entire story

Iraq scouts make comeback in former extremist bastion Mosul

AFP reports:

Scouts are making a symbolic comeback in Mosul after a three-year absence from the city that used to serve as the Daesh terrorist group’s capital in Iraq.

With white shirts and neckerchiefs, more than 200 male and female scout leaders from across Iraq recently converged on the city that was devastated by three years of extremist rule and nine months of heavy urban warfare.

It was “a message to Iraq and the world: The scouts of Mosul and Iraq are back”, Mohammed Ibrahim, head of scout activities in Mosul, told AFP.

Click here for the entire story

Haider Al Abadi announces plan to wean Iraq off oil dependency

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq's government unveiled a five-year economic development plan to wean the country off its long-term dependence on oil and build its private sector.

During a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi said the plan will aim to diversify the oil-reliant economy.

Baghdad depends on the oil sector for more than 90 per cent of its revenue.

Click here for the entire story