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

Iraq PM insists elections will be held on time

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq’s prime minister Haider Al Abadi has said that the collapse of his own political alliance will not derail the country's upcoming general elections.

The vote, scheduled for May 12, is the first since security forces routed ISIL, but it has been thrown into doubt because of continued sectarian tensions.

Parliament will hold a session on Thursday to approve the election date.

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Optimism in Iraq fuels revived interest in vintage cars

Sinan Salaheddin writes for AP:

Members of a small Iraqi community of vintage car aficionados are hoping to rekindle their passion now that the war against the Islamic State group is over.

For many, the cars remind them of happier times in Iraq, before decades of war and chaos.

The vintage cars date back to the period between the discovery of oil in the 1920s and the booming 1970s, when Iraq was awash in petroleum wealth and boasted some of the finest roads in the region.

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In Iraq, One Man’s Battle For Global Recognition Of The Biggest Shawarma Ever Made

Callum Paton writes for Newsweek:

Last year in the city of Vereeniging, South Africa, volunteers erected a 25ft tall tower of cupcakes. In Guangzhou, China, 1,069 robots danced to electronic music. And in Karbala, Iraq, a cook made a shawarma that weighed three tons.

The cupcake tower and dancing robots joined 2,000 other feats that became reconized as Guinness World Records—sadly for Adnan Tartan, the jury is still out on his giant shawarma.

Not that Tartan cares what Guinness thinks of his creation. In 2016, he cooked a shawarma that weighed two-and-a-half tons, and at the end of 2017—during Iraq’s religious Arbaeen festival—he went one better, shooting for three. He may not have made it into the record book two years ago, but 40,000 Iraqi Shiite pilgrims voted with their feet when they chowed down on his shawarma a year later in southern Iraq.

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Twilight of the Kurds

Joost Hiltermann and Maria Fantappie write for Foreign Policy:

Just a few months ago, it appeared that the Kurds of Iraq and Syria were the biggest winners in the war against the Islamic State. Bolstered by alliances with the very Western powers that had once betrayed and divided them, they dared to dream that they were on the verge of undoing what they perceived as a historic wrong, when geopolitical maneuvering denied them a state following the end of World War I.

Yet, instead of witnessing the creation of an independent homeland, the Kurds have suffered a major setback. As the military campaign against the Islamic State winds down, the United States and its allies’ enthusiasm for using the Kurds as their proxies against the jihadi organization has not translated into long-term military or diplomatic backing and certainly not into support for statehood.

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A vision for ending Iraq’s crises

Barham Salih writes in The National:

The military defeat of ISIL, the ramifications from the Kurdish referendum and the upcoming parliamentary elections represent defining moments in Iraq’s contemporary history. There is now an opportunity to reorient Iraq’s trajectory and propel the country towards prosperity and stability. Failure to seize this opportunity will condemn Iraq to deepening instability and may well doom Iraq to utter collapse.

As such, Iraq is in urgent need of an internal dialogue to address the underlying structural flaws at the crux of the post-2003 political order. Iraqis are indignant at years of conflict and the failure of the government to deliver services. Accusations of corruption are tarnishing the political class throughout Iraq, from Baghdad and Basra to Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. Such corruption and abuse of public funds undermines the viability of the Iraqi state and sustains the cycle of conflict and terrorism. It is imperative to dry up this swamp of corruption. Prime minister Haider Al Abadi’s initiative to fight corruption is important and should be built upon through comprehensive legal means.

However, ending the crises that plague Iraq also require a reconstruction of the current political order to restore citizen trust in the government. A new political order must be based on the notion of a civil state that strengthens civic values, supports the role of women and their rights, and ensures a commitment to human rights. The ambiguity found in some provisions of the Iraqi constitution and its misapplication warrants a review of the constitution, but through constitutional mechanisms that have been agreed to by the people.

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Minorities in north Iraq look to post-extremist future

AFP reports:

A Christmas tree stands on a roundabout in Bartalla in northern Iraq, its base adorned by posters of Shabak martyrs killed in the fight against Daesh.

Now that victory has been declared against the extremists, Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities are taking the future into their own hands.

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ISIS hasn’t yet morphed into an insurgency in Iraq, US commander says

Jamie McIntyre writes for The Washington Examiner:

U.S. military commanders have warned that once the Islamic State is defeated in Iraq and Syria, the terrorist group is likely to morph into an insurgency. But a senior U.S. commander in Baghdad said that has not happened yet in Iraq.

Pockets of ISIS fighters remain in Iraq, but Brig. Gen. James Glynn, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, says those remaining fighters have been cornered and unable to coordinate attacks.

“There are still remnants of ISIS who reside in a cellular structure who seek to bring instability to local areas, in particular population centers," Glynn told reporters at a Pentagon teleconference from Baghdad. He added that they are isolated by Iraqi Security Forces.

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‘We will get him’: the long hunt for Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Martin Chulov writes for The Guardian:

Day and night for the past three years, an unprecedented number of the world’s spies have zeroed in on a patch of Iraq and Syria to hunt for one man. Their target, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group, has eluded them all. But only just.

The most wanted man on the planet has been traced to a specific place at least three times in the past 18 months alone. And despite the protection of a devoted network, there have been other sightings of the reclusive leader, reported by Isis members shortly afterwards and confirmed later by intelligence officers. Being a fugitive in the digital age, or in a losing cause, clearly has its shortfalls.

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Abadi’s electoral alliance collapses after just one day

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

The Iraqi prime minister’s electoral alliance collapsed on Monday just a day after its formation, with some members accusing other groups of sectarianism and corruption.

On Sunday, Mr Al Abadi announced the formation of a "cross-sectarian" coalition called Nasr Al Iraq — "The Victory Alliance” — to face off in the elections against the so-called "State of Law" bloc of vice-president Nouri Al Maliki, Mr Al Abadi's predecessor, key rival and fellow Dawa party member.

But by Monday, several Al Fatih members had announced their withdrawal from the coalition, including Al Badr Organisation.

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Suicide attack in Baghdad kills at least 38

Kareem Shaheen reports for The Guardian:

Two suicide bombers have blown themselves up in a busy market in central Baghdad, in back-to-back explosions that killed at least 38 people, Iraqi health and police officials said.

The bombings were the most serious attacks in the capital since the prime minister, Haidar al-Abadi, declared victory over Islamic State a little over a month ago, capping a three-year campaign to reclaim territory from the terror group in Iraq.

It raises questions about the government’s readiness to deal with the security challenges posed by the group’s retreat to its insurgent roots, ahead of elections expected in May.

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