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

Iraq’s Kurdistan region to hold elections on Sept. 30

Reuters reports:

The semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, which voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence last year in a referendum rejected by Baghdad, will hold an election on Sept. 30.

A Kurdistan Regional Government media official said KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani had approved the date.

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Iraq elections: All you need to know

Arwa Ibrahim writes for Al Jazeera:

Iraqis will head to the polls on May 12 to elect a new national parliament, which will serve as the basis for the formation of a new government.

Many parties have taken the opportunity to emphasise a unified, cross-sectarian national identity in the run-up to the vote after elections four years ago which came at a time when Iraq was plagued with some of the worst sectarian violence in recent history.

But unlike in 2014 and 2010, when large coalitions encompassing a wide spectrum of political groups ran, the 2018 election landscape is splintered by intra-sectarian divisions and fragmented Shia, Sunni and Kurdish factions.

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Paramilitary strongman sets sights on Iraq premiership

Andrew England writes for Financial Times:

In elections that will shape the trajectory Iraq takes after being consumed for four years by the fight against Isis, Mr Ameri has emerged as one of the country’s most powerful figures. His new political bloc, Fatah, is considered a main challenger in prime minister Haider al-Abadi’s quest for a second term.

The incumbent’s Shia-dominated Nasr list is expected to win a plurality, with Fatah running second. But given the fragmented nature of Iraqi politics, with months of post-election horse-trading and coalition-building the norm, Mr Ameri — viewed by many as pro-Iran — will be a key powerbroker.

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After war against IS, Iraq fighters target election victory

Sarah Benhaida writes for AFP:

Not long ago they were battling against the Islamic State group -- now members of Iraqi paramilitary units have swapped the bullets for ballots as they compete in upcoming elections.

Five months after Iraq declared IS beaten, Najem is making a first foray into politics by standing for national parliamentary elections on May 12 in his southern home region Basra.

Running at the head of an alliance of local civil society figures and technocrats he says his experience in battle is perfect preparation for taking on Iraq's corrupt elite.

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In Baghdad, Iraqis embrace return to normalcy, with eye on its fragility

Scott Peterson writes for The Christian Science Monitor:

In Baghdad the differences are striking: Blast walls are coming down, malls are going up, and streets are reopening. But as Iraq's capital sheds the visual reminders of war's long, painful grip, is it enough to just wish peace into existence? Baghdad isn't letting its guard down completely, but the fatigue with fighting and yearning for normalcy are changing the face of the city.

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ISIS claims assassination of Iraq election candidate

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the assassination of an Iraqi parliamentary candidate on Sunday night, just days before polls open in one of the region's most anticipated elections.

Gunmen shot dead Faruq Zarzur Al Jubouri, a 45-year-old candidate loyal to Vice President Ayad Allawi, at his home in the town of Qayyarah, 70 kilometres from Mosul, the former ISIS bastion in northern Iraq.

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Once a relative unknown, Iraqi PM Abadi seeks second term

Raya Jalabi and Ahmed Aboulenein write for Reuters:

Few outside Iraq knew the name Haider al-Abadi in 2014 when he was plucked from relative obscurity to lead a nation in chaos.

Four years on, Abadi has defied the expectations of an army of skeptics.

A former electrical engineer once in charge of servicing BBC elevators during years of voluntary exile in the United Kingdom, Abadi is banking on his achievements in office to win a second term at May 12 elections.

But victory is far from certain.

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What to expect from Iraq’s election on Saturday

Renad Mansour writes for The Washington Post:

Iraqis head to the polls on May 12 to vote for their next federal government. This will be the first time they vote since the territorial rise and fall of the Islamic State. It is also the first vote since a widespread protest movement started in 2015, calling for the removal of the current ruling elite and major reforms to the political system governing Iraq since 2003.

This vote, and the subsequent government-formation process, will determine Iraq’s political future. Despite a number of polls, it is impossible to tell who will become the next prime minister. Yet, pre-election maneuverings and strategies offer glimpses into the country’s political trajectory and the prospects of stabilization and rebuilding. Although many now celebrate the shift from identity– to issue-based politics in Iraq, this election reveals that change will not come as quickly as analysts might expect.

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Iraq says its warplanes targeted IS jihadists in Syria

AFP reports:

Iraqi warplanes carried out a raid Sunday targeting Islamic State group commanders in eastern Syria, in the second such strike on the jihadists since mid-April, the premier's office said.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the "painful strike" which targeted "a meeting of IS commanders south of Al-Dushashiya in Syrian territory", a statement said.

F-16 fighter jets were used in the early morning strike and the raid was "successful", the spokesman of Iraq's security media centre, General Yehya Rassoul, told AFP.

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Welcome To Partytown, Baghdad

Borzou Daragahi writes for Buzzfeed:

When Zeinab Mohamed was a teenager, she was barred from going out after dark, even in her own neighborhood. Plagued with bombings, shootings, and kidnappings, Baghdad was just too dangerous. She rushed back home after school every day, and stayed inside until the next morning. On graduation day at university a decade ago, the thought of a party or a late night out with her friends was out of the question. She celebrated quietly at home.

But on a cool Wednesday night in March, the 30-year-old travel agency employee was lounging at Piano, an upscale west Baghdad restaurant, with about a dozen relatives, enjoying dinner and cake for an uncle’s birthday. It was 10 p.m. Even her 7-year-old nephew had joined the festivities.

Welcome to Partytown, Baghdad, a city of nearly 8 million that has seen a dramatic mood shift since the deadly years that followed the US invasion of 2003 and the subsequent 15 years of war, most recently including a bloody fight against ISIS.

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