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

Blast rocks Baghdad marketplace, differing accounts on casualties

Reuters reports:

A blast rocked Baghdad’s northeastern Sadr City district on Thursday but accounts differed on whether it caused any casualties. Islamic State claimed responsibility.

Police Colonel Jamal Hameed told Reuters a parcel had been found on the side of the road near a market and detonated in a controlled explosion, hurting no one.

He said an earlier statement by the joint military-police Baghdad Operations Command mentioning a suicide bomb and several deaths had been released in error.

Click here for the entire story

Iraq’s Militias, Accused of Threatening U.S., Pose a Quandary for Iraq

Alissa J. Rubin writes for The New York Times:

When the United States said this week that American forces in Iraq faced threats from Iranian “proxies,” it was referring to the armed groups that helped fight the Islamic State and have bedeviled Iraq ever since.

The Iraqi armed groups, some with ties to Iran, have a footprint in every Iraqi province. Whether they function as Iranian proxies, however, is far from settled.

“The word ‘proxy’ implies that these are tools of Iran, and they aren’t,” said Anthony H. Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Click here for the entire story

Confining Families With Alleged ISIS Ties Unlawful

Human Rights Watch reports:

The Iraqi government should reject a plan that would unlawfully detain families with perceived Islamic State (also known as ISIS) affiliation, Human Rights Watch said today. In early 2019, Iraq’s Implementation and Follow Up National Reconciliation Committee presented to Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi a proposal calling for the internment of up to 280,000 people, primarily women and their children.

“The Iraqi government proposal to confine alleged families of ISIS members not only violates international law but is also contrary to the government’s stated aim of reconciling populations post-ISIS,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Detaining families not accused of any crimes is a form of collective punishment that will fuel resentment and put the lives of thousands of people on endless hold.”

Click here for the entire story

Iraq economy has ‘opportunity’ after war and recovering oil prices

Sarmad Khan writes for The National:

While war-torn Iraq has turned a page after battling ISIS and a recovery in oil prices from a three-year slump provides impetus to move forward, the country still needs to address economic challenges, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The near-term vulnerabilities in Iraq subsided last year with a build-up in central bank reserves but the postwar reconstruction is limited and control on spending will curtail the country’s economic growth markedly, said the IMF.

“The end of the war with ISIS and a rebound in oil prices provide an opportunity to rebuild the country and address long-standing socio-economic needs. However, the challenges to achieving these objectives are formidable,” said IMF’s Gavin Gray, who led a consultation to the Iraqi government. “Combating corruption is critical to promote the effectiveness of public institutions and to support private-sector investment and job creation.”

Click here for the entire story

Iraq to Demand Cash for Islamic State Detainees

Jamie Dettmer writes for Voice of America:

Iraq is expected to make a formal request to Paris for financial support for the incarceration of French Islamic State suspects sent to Baghdad from Kurdish-controlled camps in northern Syria, say diplomats.

Fourteen alleged French jihadists have been sent to Baghdad for trial — they are likely to be joined by dozens of other French detainees. Other Western countries are also expected to take up the option to have their nationals, currently held by U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces, sent to Iraq, thus avoiding having to repatriate them.

The Iraqi government hopes to get up to $2 billion in compensation from Western countries for trying their nationals, say analysts. An estimated 1,000 Western fighters are thought to be in the custody of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who have been urging, along with U.S. officials, for Western states to repatriate them and to put them on trial in their home countries.

Click here for the entire story

Iran’s spiritual power play

Erin Cunningham and Mustafa Salim write for The Washington Post:

Iran’s religious leaders have been moving to expand their influence over the Shiite Muslim establishment in neighboring Iraq in a gamble aimed at gaining sway over Iraq’s largest religious group.

The Iranian campaign is most apparent here in the holy city of Najaf, home to Iraq’s clerical hierarchy and a gateway to the wider Shiite population, which represents about two-thirds of all Iraqis. In Najaf’s dusty warrens, Iran has bankrolled schools and charities, built elaborate mosques and nurtured links with religious scholars in a bid to undermine the local clergy, who have long been fiercely independent.

Click here for the entire story

Iraqi TV drama back after 7 years, just in time for Ramadan

Philip Issa writes for AP:

Every evening at the Muntada al-Masrah theater on Baghdad’s Rashid street, the cast and crew of the first TV drama filmed in Iraq in seven years take their places among the rooms and courtyard of this 19th-century building and shoot new scenes of their highly-anticipated series.

The arts are coming to life again in Baghdad, bringing with it a touch of hope and comfort as the country works to rebuild after 16 years of war.

And after two decades abroad, two of Iraq’s leading actors have returned to take part in “The Hotel,” the twenty-episode drama set to air during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Click here for the entire story

Don’t Let Iraq Fall Victim to U.S.-Iran Rivalry

Maria Fantappie and Ali Vaez write for Foreign Policy:

There has been a constant in Iraqi politics since the 2003 U.S. invasion: the stronger the antagonism between the United States and Iran, the weaker the Iraqi government becomes. Competition between Iraq’s two main external backers polarizes its politics and paralyzes day-to-day operations. Today, with tensions between Tehran and Washington on the rise, Iraq once again could be a political and physical battleground, upsetting its fragile internal balance and deepening regional turmoil. While the United States and Iran are likely to pursue this mutually reinforcing escalation, the Iraqi leadership does not have to acquiesce in becoming collateral damage. It must reduce its binary dependency on Washington and Tehran.

Click here for the entire story

Charity: Iraq excludes 45,000 children born under IS rule

Jan M. Olsen writes for AP:

An estimated 45,000 children in Iraq who were born under the rule of the Islamic State group are being excluded from society because the government denies them documentation and ID papers, an international charity said Tuesday.

Jan Egeland, the Norwegian Refugee Council's secretary general, is warning that these children — most of whom are in camps for the displaced today — are a "possible human time-bomb."

"Undocumented children risk remaining left on the margins of society if this issue is not addressed immediately. This seriously undermines future prospects of reconciliation efforts," said Egeland.

Click here for the entire story

‘Water is life’: unexpected rainfall revives Iraq’s historic marshlands

Raya Jalabi writes for Reuters:

This time last year, most of Iraq’s historic marshlands were dry, desiccated by upstream damming and a chronic lack of rainfall.

Now, local farmers are counting their blessings after unexpected heavy rainfall at the end of 2018 caused the dams to overflow by early January and water came gushing back to the wetlands in southeastern Iraq.

Click here for the entire story