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

One displaced family’s return to Mosul

Reuters reports:

For Mohammed Saleh Ahmed and his family, returning to Mosul after more than a year away was bittersweet.

He was happy to return to a semblance of his old life, but leaving behind the friends he’d made in the refugee camp where he’d lived for a year weighed on him.

Ever since Mohammed fled Mosul in March 2017, this community of friends and relatives - a group of like-minded survivors of the battle for Mosul - had made life bearable.

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Power-sharing deal could end dispute over Kirkuk elections

Omar Sattar writes for Al-Monitor:

For the first time since 2005, Kirkuk governorate in Iraq will hold elections Dec. 22 to select its local governing council. Parliament included the multiethnic province of the Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens in the provincial election law approved March 3.

The decision follows an agreement among the three groups' representatives in parliament and was greatly welcomed by all segments, especially the Kurds, who for years have demanded that elections be held in Kirkuk. Khalid al-Mafraji, an Arab parliament member from Kirkuk, told Al-Monitor that negotiations took more than a year.

The agreement binds the Independent High Electoral Commission to review voters' records in coordination with the ministries of Interior, Commerce, Planning and Health. If they aren't able to review the records before the elections, the commission will be obliged to undertake an audit within six months after the elected council begins its work.

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Violence Against Protesters and Journalists in Kurdistan Region Shows Blatant Disregard for Freedom of Expression in Iraq

Amnesty International reports:

Responding to eyewitness accounts of journalists and demonstrators being subjected to physical and verbal attacks by security forces in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq where there have been widespread anti-austerity protests since Sunday, Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International, said:

“Eyewitnesses we’ve interviewed, including a teacher and a journalist, have described scenes of chaos in Erbil and Dohuk as Kurdish security forces and armed individuals in civilian clothes used violence to disperse peaceful protests.

“Peaceful demonstrators have been beaten up and insulted. Journalists using cameras or mobile phones to document the protests have been attacked. This is totally unacceptable and a blatant attempt to clamp down on dissent.

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Where ISIL once thrived, beer, bingo and raki now prevail

Florian Neuhof writes for The National:

To some, Ayad Tarek's business could be seen as a personal form of revenge. A 27-year-old Yazidi, a religious minority persecuted by ISIL during its reign in northern Iraq, he moved to Mosul after the terror group was purged from the city, once their headquarters.

Though his small shop is inconspicuous, among trades such as as car mechanics and spare parts dealers, bottles of whisky are stacked behind Mr Tarek and beer cans are visible in tall fridges with glass doors. Selling alcohol is his plan to make enough money to establish another business in Germany, the country to which he once fled, but he is mindful that what he does would have been unthinkable under ISIL, and even frowned upon years earlier.

Mr Tarek is not alone in seeing opportunity in activity that ISIL would have killed people for.

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Rebuilding Mosul, Book by Book

Shawn Carrié and Pesha Magid write for The New York Review of Books:

Before the war, it was strange to see smoke in the sky.

Fahad Sabah looked out on the city from the roof of his home with a bad feeling in his stomach. He saw black, thick, heavy smoke rising over the river that bisects the city. He went down to the basement and pulled out a flat box about seventy-five centimeters wide. It contained his most prized possessions—a satellite dish, and a stack of books.

If anyone saw him, he’d likely have been executed in the public square.

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Iraq still fighting ISIL, Abadi admits

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi admitted on Wednesday that the country is engaged in a fight against ISIL sleeper cells, a climbdown from repeated claims of the insurgents being defeated.

Mr Abadi declared victory over the terror group in December after security forces drove them out of the last pockets of territory under their control. But recent months have seen ISIL remnants carry out attacks in the north, killing dozens of civilians in an offensive that could disrupt elections in May.

Iraqi and American security officials have repeatedly warned that territory in the north could easily fall back into insurgent hands.

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Fifteen years after America’s invasion, Iraq is doing well

The Economist reports:

It is less than four years since the homicidal zealots of Islamic State (IS) stood on the doorstep of Baghdad, their black flag already fluttering over several other Iraqi cities. The jihadists triumphed, albeit temporarily, because disgruntled Sunnis, former Baathists and others who felt alienated by the rule of Nuri al-Maliki, the Shia prime minister, stood aside. The central government lost control over much of the country. The independence-minded Kurds in the north watched while Iraq fell apart—until IS turned on them, too.

Today things look very different. Iraq has defeated IS and avoided the wave of Shia-on-Sunni violence that many predicted would follow. The number of civilians killed each month in fighting is a fraction of what it was in 2014. The government in Baghdad saw off a premature Kurdish push for independence last year. Oil production is up and the state has money. The power of foreigners, including Iran and America, has diminished as Iraqi politicians have learnt how to play one off against the others. In six weeks Iraq will hold an election, affirming its status as the only Arab democracy east of Tunisia.

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Iraq will prevent militant Kurdish attacks on Turkey: PM Abadi

Reuters reports:

Iraqi armed forces will prevent Kurdish militants based in northern Iraq from staging cross-border attacks against Turkey, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday.

Abadi’s pledge, made during a phone call with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, came a day after Ankara threatened to intervene directly if the Iraqi operation against the militants based in the Sinjar region failed.

Turkey has long complained that fighters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) are being given free rein to operate out of Sinjar against Turkish targets.

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Iraq’s Basra gets business boost from football

AFP reports:

Earlier this month world governing body Fifa finally lifted its prohibition on Iraq hosting competitive internationals - sparking jubilation in the violence-wracked nation.

The news was especially welcome for businesses in Basra, one of three locations now allowed to stage the matches along with holy city Karbala and Kurdish capital Arbil.

The southern city lies at the heart of a key oil-producing region but it is now looking to kick start its tourism sector - and hoping football could help turn it into a winner.

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Militant threat haunts Iraq’s race to revive economy

Erika Solomon writes for Financial Times:

The gruelling, three-year battle to wrest Iraqi territory from ISIS is drawing to a close but a tougher challenge may have just begun: repairing a shattered economy.

Iraq has suffered waves of violence and insurgency since the 2003 US invasion, and politicians and businesses say the government’s ability to address joblessness and poverty, improve the poor delivery of services and tackle corruption will be critical to ensuring stability.

“Investment and security go together,” said Daoud al-Jumaili, head of the Iraqi National Business Council. “When we get the economy moving and combat unemployment, that is when people look to rebuild their lives instead of looking to fight.”

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