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

Defeated in Syria, ISIS Fighters Held in Camps Still Pose a Threat

Eric Schmitt writes for The New York Times:

American-backed Kurdish militias in northern Syria are detaining hundreds of Islamic State fighters and family members in makeshift camps, raising fears among United States military officials of potentially creating a breeding ground for extremists — repeating a key security mistake of the Iraq war.

Despite its concerns, the Trump administration has largely taken a hands-off approach toward the detainees, who come from more than 30 countries and were captured or surrendered after last year’s collapse of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital.

Unlike suspected Islamic State militants seized in neighboring Iraq, largely from the northern city of Mosul and surrounding areas, the detainees being held in the Kurdish region of Syria fall into a legal gray area and face an uncertain long-term fate.

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Iraq seeks aid to rebuild after IS, but donors could be wary

Susannah George and Balint Szlanko report for AP:

Iraq hopes to raise billions of dollars at a conference next month to fund reconstruction after its costly war against the Islamic State group, but many fear the country’s endemic corruption could undermine the appeal.

Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State group in December after driving the extremists from nearly all the territory they once held, but three years of grueling combat has taken a devastating toll, leaving entire towns and neighborhoods in ruins.

Neighboring Kuwait will host an international conference in mid-February aimed at rallying support for Iraq’s reconstruction. The United Nations, the United States and Saudi Arabia support the initiative, the details of which have yet to be made public.

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As Turkey Invades, Kurds See Betrayal Once Again

Yaroslav Trofimov writes for The Wall Street Journal:

In Kurdish history, there’s a betrayal that looms large. In the 1970s, the U.S. armed Kurdish fighters to rise up against Saddam Hussein in Iraq, as part of an effort to help the pro-American Shah of Iran. Then, once the Shah suddenly struck his own deal with Saddam and no longer needed the Kurds, Washington simply walked away, ignoring Kurdish pleas to help avert an imminent bloodbath.

“Covert action,” then U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger famously told a congressional committee, “should not be confused with missionary work.”

Today, as four decades ago, the Kurds in both Syria and Iraq are realizing just how disposable they are to the regional—and global—powers. That’s especially so now that Kurdish help is no longer needed in the campaign to topple Islamic State, and as geopolitical alliances shift in the contest over the future of Syria and the entire region.

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Electoral Rhetoric And The Resort To Populism

Hashim Al-Rikabi writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

Many commentators have rightly described the upcoming elections as crucial, mainly because of the potential consequences of its results on the future of Iraqi politics. The political class has taken opposing sides on several polarizing issues, such as the politicization of the PMU, the nature of Baghdad-KRG relations, and the response to the regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. While some incumbent elites have the luxury of attracting votes based on actual achievements, such as defeating ISIS and restoring federal control of disputed territories, others have resorted to populism as a means to remaining relevant.

Populist politicians are trying hard to bring back the ethnic and sectarian discourse that dominated Iraqi politics pre-ISIS in order to gain regional support and domestic audience.  This was apparent during Masoud Barzani’s campaign for secession which rallied around the victimhood of Kurds and their marginalization by Arabs. Also, some Sunni politicians have start to mobilize sectarian rhetoric to galvanize Sunnis by attributing the damage brought by ISIS and its consequences to the marginalization of Sunnis by a Shia-led government. Meanwhile some Shia politicians have started to mobilize their bases by accusing Prime Minster Abadi of being too reconciliatory with Saudi Arabia.

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Inside Sadr City: How the deadly slum became the ‘place of peace’

Hollie McKay writes for Fox News:

For thousands of U.S. personnel who fought in the Iraq War, Baghdad’s destitute Sadr City holds a pivotal place in their memories. Not only the years spent dodging ceaseless bullets, but the years spent trying to clean up the squalor, to win the hearts and minds, to show that there was a humanitarian side to the war after all.

So what became of the district, commonly known as the Thawra District, once deemed the ultimate danger zone?

Today, the soundtrack of the impoverished Shia-dominant Sadr City is a chorus of constant car honks and the shrilling, infant-like screams of poultry being burned alive in the open slaughterhouses. The pavements are still thick with animal blood and urine. But the faces that stare back are ones smiling, working, sweeping floors, selling spices and scarves or slaughtering livestock.

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Iraq condemns German woman to death for belonging to Isis

AFP reports:

An Iraqi court said Sunday it had condemned to death by hanging a German woman of Moroccan origin after finding her guilty of belonging to the Islamic State jihadist group.
She was sentenced for providing "logistical support and helping the terrorist group to carry out crimes," said court spokesman Abdel Settar Bayraqdar.
"The accused admitted during interrogations that she left Germany for Syria then Iraq to join Isis with her two daughters, who married members of the terrorist organisation," he said.

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Iraq invited to attend Syria talks in Sochi as observer, Abadi says

Reuters reports:

Iraq has been invited to attend the Syria peace talks due in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi at the end of the month, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a tweet on Monday.

It received an invitation from the Russian government to attend the conference as an observer, according to a statement from the Iraqi ambassador to Russia, Haidar Hadi, published on Abadi’s twitter account.

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Boy says he lived with U.S. family under ISIS rule

CBS News reports:

Ayham Elias is an 8-year-old Iraqi boy who made it back from territory held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in November, more than three years after he was kidnapped by the extremists. But when the little boy arrived in a muddy refugee village near Dohuk in northern Iraq, his family immediately noticed a change; Ayham had somehow learned to speak fluent English.

He says he lived under ISIS rule with an American family. He only knew they were American because the woman told him she was from the U.S.

Ayham tells CBS News correspondent Holly Williams that he spent two years living with the American woman and her four children in Raqqa, which was then the ISIS self-declared capital city in Syria.

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Why Iraqi Lawmakers Want To Postpone The Elections

Ihsan Noori writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

The Iraqi parliament failed to confirm a date for the country’s parliamentary and provincial elections after lawmakers from the National Alliance and Kurdish blocs withdrew from a session on January 18. Sunni MPs requested a secret ballot to postpone the election from the date submitted by the Council of Ministers, May 12, to the first of December this year. Shia and Kurdish MPs broke quorum, leaving only 123 MPs present, which is well below what is required to hold a vote.

Prime Minster Haider al-Abadi – who is riding high after leading the country to a victory over the Islamic State – wants the elections to be held in May. Badr organization leader Hadi al-Ameri, Dawa Chairman Nouri al-Maliki, and Kurdish parties Gorran and the Kurdistan Islamic Union made it clear that they oppose any delay to the elections. The United States also voiced its support for the Iraqi government’s plans to hold the elections on time, saying in a statement that postponing the elections “would set a dangerous precedent, undermining the constitution and damaging Iraq’s long-term democratic development.”

But Sunni lawmakers argue that the war-torn country is not ready to hold elections, citing destruction in Sunni cities and the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people as obstacles.

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‘The only ones who lost’: Mosul is still digging out its dead six months after ISIS’ defeat

Salma Abdelaziz, Arwa Damon and Muwafaq Mohammed write for CNN:

The crew gently digs around the dark, matted hair protruding from the rubble. As they pull away bits of debris, the stench of rotting flesh grows more pungent.

"It's a girl," one of the recovery workers says, "and she has a stuffed animal with her."

She is one of an estimated 10,000 people killed in the nine-month long battle to recapture Iraq's second largest city from ISIS, according to Mosul's municipality chief Abdul Sattar al-Habbo.

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