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

A Journey Into Iraqi Kurdistan

Tim Neville writes for The New York Times:

The Mar Mattai monastery clings to the side of a steep mountain, and on a clear day a visitor can stand against its fortresslike walls and discern far below the winsome farmlands of Upper Mesopotamia. Here, in the cradle of civilization, the building is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world. From this peaceful perch, it is difficult to imagine the horror.

One hazy morning last spring, Harry Schute, a retired Army colonel in his 50s with a Cheshire grin, walked through the monastery’s heavy doors and along its shaded arcades. A boy played with a soccer ball in the courtyard, the boom of each kick cracking off the stone walls. At its peak in the 9th century, the monastery housed as many as 7,000 monks. Today it has five, a bishop, this boy and his family — all survivors of the Islamic State.

We were on the western fringes of Kurdistan, a Netherlands-size, semiautonomous region in the north of Iraq that is home to 5.2 million of the world’s estimated 30 million Kurds, a stateless people who populate the border regions between Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria. The fact that the monastery still stood; that this Christian boy and his family were still alive; that a small group of North Americans now felt safe enough to travel here — all of it seemed like a miracle.

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While Transitioning, Please Mind The Gap!

Craig Whiteside writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

The Iraqi-led campaign to defeat the Islamic State’s political project has been a remarkable success, in ways that many observers could not have imagined in the dark days of 2014. Nonetheless, even the most optimistic observer would agree that the war is not over. The Islamic State’s revival following their previous defeat (circa 2008) is a reminder to all what can happen if the appropriate attention is not paid to the threat of another resurgence. Furthermore, there is plenty of evidence that the Islamic State has been engaged in a full transition from a proto-state with governing structures, to the lean structure of a networked guerilla army over the last six months, intent on building for another challenge.

Having decisively defeated the conventional forces of the Islamic State, it is important for the anti-Daesh coalition to match the Islamic State’s transition with one of its own. Unlike the recent campaign, where the coalition’s force defeated the caliphate in a largely conventional style – including heavy urban combat, the next phase of conflict will be dominated by an irregular style of warfare. The question is, will the Iraqi security forces be ready?

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The bureaucracy of evil: how Islamic State ran a city

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad writes for The Guardian:

Every day, early in the morning, the former missile scientist would leave his house in Mosul. Riding buses, or on foot – he could no longer afford petrol – he’d call on friends, check on his mother or visit his sister’s family. Sometimes he’d hunt for cheap kerosene, or try to score contraband books or cigarettes. Most often, he’d meander aimlessly – a traveller in his own city.

In the evening, he’d sit at his old wooden desk, bent over his notebook, recording the day. Most of what he wrote was banal: the price of tomatoes, a quarrel with his wife. But he also wrote his observations of the remarkable events unfolding in Mosul.

By the time he stopped writing, he’d filled five volumes. They are the handwritten diaries of a city under occupation, and a chart of how the Islamic State tried to live up to its name – by running a city.

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At least 6 Iraqi forces killed in apparently mistaken U.S. airstrike

Tamer El-Ghobashy and Mustafa Salim write for The Washington Post:

At least six Iraqi police officers and allied militiamen were killed early Saturday by U.S. airstrikes after Iraq’s military apparently mistook them for armed insurgents.

The apparent friendly fire is being investigated by Iraqi and U.S. officials in Baghdad, and it already has provoked anger among critics of the United States who have long been suspicious of or hostile to its involvement in the fight against the Islamic State.

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Turkish operations on Syrian border to extend as far as Iraq, Erdogan says

Reuters reports:

President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday promised to sweep militants from the length of Turkey’s Syrian frontier, saying that Ankara could extend its current military operation in northwest Syria all the way east to the border with Iraq.

Turkey’s offensive in Syria’s Afrin against the Kurdish YPG militia, which it views as a security threat, has opened a new front in the multi-sided Syrian civil war and further strained ties with NATO ally Washington.

Since the start of the incursion, dubbed “Operation Olive Branch” by Ankara, Erdogan has said Turkish forces would continue east to Syria’s Manbij, potentially bringing it in confrontation with the U.S. soldiers positioned there.

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Security And Economy Top Iraqis’ Priorities

Hamzeh Hadad writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

National reconciliation seems to be an important topic to focus on in a state as diverse as Iraq, considering all the violence the country has witnessed. However, according to a nationwide poll conducted in the summer of 2017 by Al-Bayan Center for Studies and Planning, national reconciliation is near the bottom of the priorities of most Iraqis. Citizens are more concerned with security and the economy, which is why these concerns should be the focus of foreign assistance and aid.

Out of 2,310 Iraqis polled from all 18 provinces (each participant selected their two main priorities), the top four election pledges citizens want to see candidates deliver on were: services and economy, security and border protection, job creation and anti-corruption. Only 1.5% voiced concern regarding resolution of issues between the Federal and Kurdistan Regional Government and 1.4% on resolving issues between the Federal Government and Sunni majority governorates.

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Davos 2018: Iraq’s reconstruction may cost $100 billion, says Abadi

Gareth Browne writes for The National:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi has said that Iraq’s reconstruction may cost up to $100 billion and tied the future growth plans to efforts to reassert the Iraqi constitution as the foundation of rebuilding ties between Baghdad and Erbil.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Al Abadi told the global gathering that at least US$45bn was needed for reconstruction of Iraq following the battle against Isil, and that the figure could be “up to $100bn”.

He said and that the “[upcoming] Kuwait conference will present opportunities for regional investors to take part in the reconstruction of Iraq”.

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Iraq’s Shunned Islamic State Families

Heather Murdock writes for Voice of America:

Houla, 25, has no children, so technically she can return to her village, where the children of Islamic State militants are not welcome, no matter how young. But as a militant’s widow, she says, her presence at home could put her whole family in danger.

Instead, she lives in a tent in one of Iraq’s bleak desert camps, where families continue to arrive daily, despite the war’s official end more than a month ago.

Even the most conservative estimates of the number of Iraqi IS militants killed or captured in recent years reaches tens of thousands. Many of their families now live in camps like this one, shunned by their neighbors and relatives, who are often also victims of IS’s brutal crimes.

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Iraq receives ex-trade minister convicted on graft charges from Lebanon

Reuters reports:

Iraqi authorities on Thursday took into custody a former trade minister convicted in absentia for corruption cases, following his extradition from Lebanon, Iraq’s corruption watchdog said in a statement.

Trade Minister Abdul Falah al-Sudany resigned in 2009 and fled the country in connection with graft allegations involving Iraq’s food rations program, one of the world’s biggest.

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Baghdad and Erbil move closer to ending crisis

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq and the autonomous Kurdistan region are closer to ending their bitter dispute after Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi met with Kurdish counterpart Nechirvan Barzani in Davos.

The officials held talks late Wednesday for the second time since the Kurdistan Regional Government held an independence vote condemned by Baghdad.

Talks in Davos reiterated the conclusion of Mr Al Abadi’s first meeting with Kurdish officials, the prime minister's office said. Earlier this month, the two sides reached an initial agreement to lift an international flight ban imposed on the autonomous Kurdish region by Baghdad.

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