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

Fear drives down fish sales in Iraq’s markets

Rudaw reports:

Fish markets are empty in the Iraqi capital after thousands of fish died in the Euphrates River.

“The mass death of fish had a great impact on us, because the ministries of health and environment say these fish are sick. For that reason no one buys fish. This has been spread across the media. People are afraid and don’t shop,” said a fishmonger in the capital’s Shawaka bazaar.

Bacterial rot, water shortages, and improper fisheries have been blamed for the deaths of thousands of fish in Babylon province earlier this month. An investigation is underway.

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Iran’s influence in Iraq is declining. Here’s why.

Munqith al-Dagher writes for The Washington Post:

Iran’s once-indomitable influence in Iraq is waning, new public opinion data shows. The rise of Iranian influence can be traced to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Iran filled a political vacuum left after the fall of Saddam Hussein in ways the United States could not, cultivating a wide range of Iraqi proxies and constituencies.

Iran’s popularity increased significantly in Iraq from 2003 until 2014. Iran’s strategy was to exploit Iraq’s sectarian divide, using Shiite parties to increase its influence not only among the political elite but also among average Iraqi Shiites. Sectarian religious propaganda was one of the main tools used by Iran to increase its popularity and hence influence among Iraqis.

But while many analysts treat Iran’s influence in Iraq as something akin to a natural fact, new public opinion survey evidence shows that Iran’s honeymoon with Iraqi Shiites is rapidly fading. This shift in attitudes could have profound effects on the future trajectory of Iraqi politics.

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Basra’s Poisonous Water Demands International Action

Glada Lahn and Nouar Shamout write for Chatham House:

In August, frustrations over crippled public services, drought and unemployment in Al-Basra governorate boiled over. The acute cause was a water contamination crisis. By the end of October, hospital admissions of those suffering from poisoning exceeded 100,000 according to health officials. Crops and animals in the rural areas have been severely affected by lack of water and current levels of salinity, with thousands migrating to Basra city.

The unrest continues, stoked by local and regional tensions, and even threatens the export of oil from Iraq’s only deep water port, Umm Qasr. But the crisis of water governance that triggered it endangers more than oil, and will exacerbate problems of child health, migration and interstate conflict.

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Hundreds of ISIS fighters ‘trying to cross into Iraq from Syria’

The National reports:

Hundreds of ISIS fighters are trying to cross into Iraq from Syria, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday, following a recent visit to the headquarters of the Joint Special Operations Command.

Less than a month after assuming office the newly-appointed prime minister is dealing with the legacy of Iraq's war against ISIS in the form of insurgent attacks and returning fighters.

According to Mr Abdul Mahdi the extremists are gearing up to recapture territory they lost to the Iraqi military during the latter's three-year battle against the extremist group.

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Iraq to exchange food for Iranian gas, seeks U.S. approval: government officials

Reuters reports:

Iraq has agreed with Iran to exchange Iraqi food items for Iranian gas and energy supplies, two Iraqi government officials said on Wednesday.

Baghdad is now seeking U.S. approval to allow it to import Iranian gas which is used in its power stations, and needs more time to find an alternative source, they said. The sources are a senior government official and a member of Iraq’s ministerial energy committee.

“The American deadline of 45 days to stop importing Iranian gas is not enough at all for Iraq to find an alternative source,” the first official said.

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Violence targets medical workers, patients preventing care in Iraq

Rudaw reports:

Violence towards health workers and patients in Iraq is preventing safe access to and the impartial delivery of health care, according to a study by the Iraqi Ministry of Health and the local International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

“Because health care professionals by the very nature of their job deal with situations of life and death, situations where emotions run high, they are very frequently exposed to adverse reaction by patients, their families, the communities and other people that accompany them to the health facilities, including weapon bearers”, stated Katharina Ritz, the head of ICRC in Iraq.

The Iraqi health ministry and ICRC launched a 10-day public awareness campaign entitled 'Health Care in Danger' in Baghdad on Monday.

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Iran, feeling sanctions bite, looks for outlet in Iraq

Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Philip Issa write for AP:

At this year’s Baghdad International Fair, Iranian businessmen displayed thick, colorful Persian rugs to impressed onlookers while others showcased the latest in Iranian manufacturing in power generators and industrial tools.

For Iranian companies, the annual Baghdad International Fair is a major event, as exporters in carpets, foodstuffs and heavy equipment look to score sales in Iraq’s import-dependent economy.

But this year’s edition, running this week, is an even bigger deal than usual: Iran, already feeling the bite of newly re-imposed unilateral U.S. sanctions, is turning to its neighbor to soak up its exports in agriculture, manufacturing and energy.

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Kurdish women pedal, dunk, spike as Iraq’s top athletes

AFP reports:

When Iraq's female cycling team snatched bronze and silver medals at a landmark pan-Arab race, it was thanks to athletes from the autonomous Kurdish region.

The country's toughest female competitors, its best-equipped facilities and most experienced coaches are not in the capital Baghdad, but in the Kurdish-majority northern region.

And the three medals won by the Iraqi female cyclists in September at the tournament in Algeria were seen as proof of this sporting prowess in a region that has governed itself since 1991.

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Anger is simmering among Iraq’s Kurdish youth

Mariya Petkova writes for Al Jazeera:

It has been more than a month since Iraq's Kurdish region held its parliamentary election, and a new Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) is yet to be announced. Currently, intense negotiations are taking place between the two main political players in the region - the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) - dispelling speculations that their decades-old power-sharing agreement had come to an end after the severe political fallout from last year's independence referendum.

But as the two parties are busy evening out their differences and haggling over ministerial posts, there does not seem to be much enthusiasm about the new KDP-PUK government, especially among the youth.

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Iraq rail service back on track after war with Islamic State

John Davison writes for Reuters:

At Baghdad’s grand but half-empty railway station, a single train is sputtering to life. It is the newly revived daily service to Falluja, a dusty town to the west once infamous as a Sunni insurgent stronghold.

The driver and conductor assure that the tracks running through Anbar province are now clear of mines planted by Islamic State and of collapsed bridges the group blew up when it marauded through western and northern Iraq in 2014.

After a four-year hiatus, hundreds of rail passengers now travel the 30 miles (50 km) between Baghdad and Falluja in just over an hour. By car, the journey can take several.

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