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

Why do Kurds continue to flee Iraq’s Kurdish region?

Mariya Petkova writes for Al Jazeera:

Zakho is a relatively prosperous town, with many families working in trade and transportation linked to the nearby Ibrahim Khalil border crossing between Turkey and the Kurdish region, the main gateway for the billions-worth of Turkish goods that Iraq imports. Like most Kurdish cities, it remained relatively safe and stable during the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) and the subsequent war effort to dismantle it.

For the decade and a half since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the Kurdish region prospered, its residents enjoying a much higher standard of living than the rest of the country. Yet over the past four years, large numbers of Iraqi Kurds have attempted the dangerous journey to Europe.

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U.S. Citizen, Detained Without Charge by Trump Administration for a Year, Is Finally Free

Jonathan Hafetz writes for the ACLU:

An American illegally detained in Iraq by the U.S. military for more than a year has finally won his freedom.

On Sunday, after a long court battle, the Trump administration let our client go. Under a settlement agreement, he was released in a third country, where he will once again be a free man. Parts of the agreement are confidential, and he is officially remaining unidentified for his safety and privacy.

From the moment the American was imprisoned, his own government tried to deny him his constitutional rights. It kept his detention secret, denied his requests for a lawyer, and attempted to forcibly transfer him to a dangerous war zone.

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Yazidi mothers of children by IS face heartbreaking choices

Hamza Hendawi, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Salar Salim write for AP:

The 26-year-old Yazidi mother faces a heartbreaking choice.

Her family is preparing to emigrate from Iraq to Australia and start a new life after the suffering the Islamic State group wreaked on their small religious minority. She is desperate to go with them, but there is also someone she can't bear to leave behind: Her 2-year-old daughter, Maria, fathered by the IS fighter who enslaved her.

She knows her family will never allow her to bring Maria. They don't even know the girl exists. The only relative who knows is an uncle who took the girl from her mother and put her in an orphanage in Baghdad after they were freed from captivity last year.

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Kurdistan’s mountains face deforestation because of kerosene shortages

Bextiyar Qadir reports for Rudaw:

People living in the Kurdistan Region's mountains rely on heating oil as temperatures drop and snow begins to fall. In 2018, residents have resorted to chopping down trees to make up for the shortages.

"If we don’t cut down the trees, we won’t be able to provide heat for our family. I feel like a criminal..." said Jasim Bradosty, a local from Bradost in northern Erbil province.

"If the government would distribute heating oil to citizens, people wouldn’t cut down trees. And another point, there is no control over fuel prices in the market. Seriously, fuel prices are too expensive," he added.

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‘Walk to heaven’: Shiite pilgrims trek to Iraq’s Karbala

Philip Issa and Hadi Mizban report for AP:

Millions of Shiite Muslims from around the world are making their way this week to their sect's holy shrines in the Iraqi city of Karbala, a pilgrimage that is as much about community as it is about religion.

The shrines are of two revered Shiite imams: Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, and his half-brother Abbas. The annual commemoration, called Arbaeen, draws more pilgrims each year — according to Iraqi figures — than the hajj in Saudi Arabia, a pilgrimage required once in a lifetime of every Muslim who can afford it and is physically able to make it.

Pilgrims stream toward Karbala on foot from the cities of Najaf, 70 kilometers (45 miles) away, Baghdad, 90 kilometers (55 miles) to the north, and other places farther afield, resting along the way in tents lined with foam mattresses and fleece blankets.

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Mosul residents: ‘We were the masters of the world’

Mariya Petkova writes for Al Jazeera:

Amid the rubble and devastation of the old city in west Mosul, it was difficult to imagine that Bulgaria would be the one thing local people would want to talk about the most.

Communist Bulgaria seemed to be remembered fondly by the few people (all middle-aged Muslim men) I could find to talk to in the empty streets of al-Sa'aa neighbourhood.

"I went to Bulgaria in the 1980s. It was very beautiful and cheap," Faris Ibrahim told me. He had just re-opened his small shop, spending his own money to repair the damage that the fighting had caused last year.

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Baghdad tries to stop New York sale of 3,000-year-old artifact

Rudaw reports:

The Iraqi government is in contact with New York authorities about a piece of Iraqi history that will go up for auction next week.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has prepared a report indicating that the 3,000-year-old Assyrian relief belongs to Iraq and “is under the protection of Iraqi Antiquities Law,” ministry spokesperson Ahmed Mahjoob stated.

Baghdad’s embassy in Washington is following up on the case with the New York prosecutor and the US government, he added.

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Iraq will prioritise own interests regarding Iran sanctions – new PM

Ahmed Aboulenein reports for Reuters:

Iraq will prioritise its own interests and independence when it comes to helping the United States enforce sanctions against Iran, new Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Thursday.

President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from a 2015 international nuclear accord with Tehran in May and reimpose sanctions has put Abdul Mahdi's incoming government in a difficult position, since Iraq's economy is closely intertwined with neighbouring Iran's.

"We want to secure Iraq from any interference in issues, affairs of other countries, whether it's a neighbouring country or it's any other country in the world," Abdul Mahdi told a news conference in Baghdad.

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US Military: IS Still Poses Threat in Iraq, Syria

Sirwan Kajjo writes for Voice of America:

Despite the anti-Islamic State campaign being waged in both Iraq and Syria, the terror group can still attack coalition forces and their local partners in both countries, Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said.

“We are seeing small pockets of ISIS still in areas like Kirkuk and Anbar provinces,” Ryan told VOA in an interview, using an acronym for the terror group. “They are trying to disrupt civilian services, like water and electricity, to try to get the people against the government.”

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Iraq Is Tempting Fate by Punishing Women

Sophia Jones and Christina Asquith write for Foreign Policy:

The courtroom was silent—all eyes were on a woman, a Turkish schoolteacher in her early twenties, who stood in a wooden cage in the center of the room. Her husband, killed in an airstrike, was an accused member of the Islamic State. She was one of the hundreds of foreign women who crossed illegally into Iraq and Syria and would become known as the “ISIS brides.” And today was her moment of reckoning.

It wasn’t clear, however, whether she understood that. She had only a court-appointed translator and public defender, neither of whom offered a proper translation or defense. When the judge asked if she pleaded guilty or innocent to illegally crossing into Iraq—at no point did they ask if she joined or supported the Islamic State—she seemed unsure what to say.

Over the past three years, U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have captured, killed, and detained thousands of Iraqis and foreigners with alleged Islamic State ties, ultimately driving the militant group and its predominantly male ranks from power in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in July 2017. But left behind are the thousands of women married to or associated with the fighters, their children, and a burning ethical question: What should be done with them? We know historically that women often lose agency during wartime, particularly in patriarchal societies where they already lack freedom of choice and movement. Are these women victims themselves, forced into life under militant rule, or perpetrators of and partners in violence who should be held accountable for violence that tore apart Iraq?

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