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

In Iraq’s crumbling Basra, a yearning for a better past

Ulf Laessing writes for Reuters:

When Iraqi merchant Jabar Mohamed was growing up in the southern port city of Basra, he liked to watch boats gliding along a canal lined with palm trees and ancient buildings near his home.

Once dubbed the “Venice of the Middle East” for its network of canals resembling the Italian city, Basra was a magnet for Middle Eastern tourists until the early 1980s.

Today the cherished canal of Mohamed’s youth is a reeking, refuse-filled cesspool forcing passersby to cover their mouths.

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Iraqi voters are fed up with the old guard

The Economist reports:

Haider al-Abadi, the prime minister of Iraq, has a strong case for re-election. He has overseen the defeat of Islamic State (IS), which once held vast portions of the country. He denied a Kurdish push for independence last year. Oil production is near record levels and rising. And he has learned to play foreign powers off against each other. No wonder he calls his inclusive electoral list of Shias, Sunnis and Kurds the “Victory Alliance”.

But as Iraqis go to the polls to elect a new parliament on May 12th, many will be thinking about the economy. Unemployment is up and salaries are down. GDP per person has fallen from almost $7,000 in 2013 to under $5,000 last year. Much of this is a result of the war with IS. Mr Abadi, though, has failed to tackle corruption, increase transparency or reform the system by which ministries are divvied up (and plundered) by sect and ethnicity. He shies away from a showdown with fellow Shia politicians who have ruled Iraq since America installed them 15 years ago.

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Trump’s Iran decision puts Iraq leaders to the test

Samia Nakhoul writes for Reuters:

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal has cast a shadow over an already fraught election in Iraq, where Tehran and Washington have vied for influence since the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The removal of a Sunni dictatorship cleared the path for the country’s Shi’ite majority, from which the three top contenders for the premiership, including incumbent Haider al-Abadi, are drawn. The outcome of the May 12 ballot is too close to call.

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Iraq’s Looming Election Has ISIS Spooked

Borzou Daragahi writes for The Atlantic:

The Islamic State has issued a stern warning to any Sunni Muslims planning to taking part in Iraq’s upcoming general elections—don’t.

On April 22, Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, the spokesman of ISIS, delivered a speech filled with lengthy Koranic verses and fiery religious rhetoric. He reserved his harshest words for Iraq’s Sunnis, who constitute the backbone of ISIS. “We warn you against assuming the debts of those who have committed every form of apostasy. The voting centers and those within them are targets of our swords,” Muhajir said. Stay out of voting centers on May 12, the day of the polls—don’t even walk near them, Muhajir warned Iraq’s Sunni Arabs, who are believed to account for some 20 to 25 percent of Iraq’s 30 million peopleEven those who oppose ISIS should stay home rather than “support or assist the rejectionist polytheists or their apostate lackeys regarded as Sunnis,” Muhajir said, referring to Shia Muslims, who revere saints or imams, along with any Sunnis who cooperate with the government in Baghdad.

While Muhajir’s tirade could have simply been the depraved rant of a mass murderer, it would be foolish to ignore his words. An explicit threat from ISIS to target Iraq’s parliamentary elections shows the importance of that vote, and suggests the weakened jihadi group’s persistent ability to wreak havoc in the country. Iraqi media has reported more than 15 assassination attempts against candidates or election officials over the past month. On Monday, ISIS claimed responsibility for the assassination of Sunni parliamentary candidate Farouq al-Jabouri, a candidate running on the election list of Ayad Allawi, Iraq’s former U.S.-backed prime minister. Iraq will bar firearms during election day and close its border crossings and airports for 24 hours before polling stations open on Saturday. Officials know that ISIS may be down, but it is certainly not out.

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Iraq says five IS commanders captured after crossing from Syria: state TV

Reuters reports:

Iraq captured five Islamic State commanders after its intelligence services lured them into crossing from neighboring Syria, Iraqi state TV reported on Wednesday.

It described the five as “some of the most wanted” leaders of the group. They were named as Saddam al-Jammel, Mohamed al-Qadeer, Ismail al-Eithawi, Omar al-Karbouli and Essam al-Zawbai and were shown in yellow prisoner uniforms.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said last month he would “take all necessary measures” against militants based in Syria. The Iraqi air force has carried out several air strikes since last year against Islamic State positions in Syrian territory.

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In crowded field, Iraq election hopefuls vie to stand out

Ali Choukeir writes for AFP:

With campaign posters cluttering the streets of Iraq, the almost 7,000 candidates running for parliament in upcoming elections are resorting to increasingly wacky pitches to woo voters.

As they bid for one of the 329 seats up for grabs the would-be MPs seem to be outdoing each other with eye-catching slogans, ranging from the amusing to the downright bizarre.

"Vote for Anuar al-Waili, her cousin owns a tyre shop in Australia," reads one full-page newspaper advert published ahead of the May 12 nationwide poll.

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Iraqi election highlights Basra corruption

Colin Freeman writes for The National:

Complete with coffee shops, perfumeries and pizza parlours, the gleaming atrium of Basra's Times Square Mall are a glimpse of how a peaceful Iraq may one day look.

Outside the mall, meanwhile, the smell on the air is not usually fresh pizza or coffee, but an equally fresh smell of sewage – the result of long-unsolved sanitation problems that also make Basra's salty tap water all but undrinkable.

Ahead of this Saturday's elections, Haider Al Abadi, the country's prime minister, has blamed all these problems on another, equally strong smell coming out of Basra – the stench of corruption, on a massive scale.

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Iraq’s Sunnis voting without hope in first election since Islamic State

Ahmed Aboulenein and Raya Jalabi write for Reuters:

At the gates of Tikrit under a giant billboard of a Shi’ite militia commander, hundreds of Iraqi Sunni Arabs wait in the scorching sun for hours to be searched before being let into the city that was once the power base of Saddam Hussein.

Treated as Islamic State sympathizers by Iraq’s Shi’ite dominated security forces and militias, the Sunnis near Tikrit say they feel disillusioned and alienated ahead of a May 12 election to elect a new prime minister.

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Iraqi vote offers chance to chart post-IS future

Qassim Abdul-Zahra writes for AP:

Iraqis head to the polls this weekend for the first time since the government declared victory against the Islamic State group, in national elections that could tilt the balance of power between the United States and Iran.

The May 12 election, the fourth since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, will be dominated by the same leaders and factions that emerged 15 years ago. But the atrocities committed by IS against fellow Sunnis, the hard-fought national campaign against the extremist group and new rifts among the dominant Shiite blocs seem to have eased the sectarian tensions that marked past votes.

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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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