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

Islamic State has been stashing millions of dollars in Iraq and abroad

The Economist reports:

Gone are the days when the black flag fluttered over a third of Iraq and almost half of Syria. Crushed on the battlefield, Islamic State has lost roughly 98% of its self-proclaimed “caliphate”. Some 70,000 of its fighters (who numbered perhaps 100,000 at their peak) are thought to have been killed. But thousands have escaped. Some have remained in Iraq and Syria; others have slipped into Turkey or hooked up with IS affiliates in Egypt, Libya and South-East Asia. Around 10,000 of the group’s foreign fighters are thought to have left the Middle East.

Those intent on continuing to wage jihad will still have the means. IS has quietly stashed millions of dollars across the region. It has invested in businesses in Iraq, bought gold in Turkey and continued to transfer money to its affiliates. “You wouldn’t believe the amount of money that has gone out of IS’ territory,” says a former weapons-dealer involved in transferring the jihadists’ cash. An Iraqi legislator estimates that IS smuggled $400m out of Iraq and Syria during its retreat.

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Expeditionary Advising: Enabling Iraqi Operations from the Gates of Baghdad through Eastern Mosul

Ryan Wylie, Aaron Childers and Brett Sylvia write for Small Wars Journal:

In May of 2016, Task Force (TF) Strike, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), assumed the responsibility of advising and assisting the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in their fight to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  At the time, the ISF were at a critical point of transition.  In the preceding 18 months, the ISF and Kurdish forces stopped the advance of ISIS and established a stable defensive line extending from Baghdad and Erbil, stretching north along the Tigris River past Bayji, and extending west along the Euphrates River past Ramadi and out to Al Assad Airbase.  To prepare and conduct operations to ultimately oust ISIS from Mosul, the ISF required capable advisors spread across their 14 Division formations.  As the only Brigade Combat Team (BCT) in Iraq, this task fell to TF Strike. As a result, TF Strike developed an approach to expeditionary advising focused on maintaining a persistent presence forward with Iraqi partners, leveraging precision capabilities, and building a robust advisor network.  Understanding the critical elements of this transformation can help inform current policy discussions on the future role of U.S. ground forces in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere, and is particularly relevant to future advising concepts, specifically the nascent U.S. Army Security Force Assistance Brigades.

Just prior to TF Strike’s arrival, the ISF, led by the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Services (CTS), conducted limited offensive operations to retake the key population centers of Bayji and Ramadi. The liberation of Fallujah was on-going and would be complete in the ensuing two months.  Although ISIS retained control of key Lines of Communication (LOC) into Mosul and the surrounding areas, to include the outlying cites of Hawija and Shargot, the ISF had regained the initiative and, along with the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command (CJFLCC), were setting conditions for the Mosul Offensive.  In April of 2016, the ISF began Operation Valley Wolf, the first major offensive operation in Northern Iraq, intended to set conditions for the eventual liberation of Mosul by reclaiming key terrain along the Tigris River and establishing an operating base at Quyarrah-West Airbase (Q-West).

Despite recent success in the Euphrates River Valley, there was little confidence Iraqi forces were up to the task of retaking Mosul. Aside from the CTS, the ISF force reconstituted after the invasion of ISIS remained largely untested in their ability to project combat power away from Baghdad and conduct sustained offensive operations. In the ongoing fight in Fallujah, the ISF demonstrated a limited ability to get multiple ISF components, specifically the CTS, Iraqi Army, and Federal Police, into the fight simultaneously and de-conflict their actions. Despite this improvement, synchronization of these different branches of the Iraqi security forces remained elusive. Ultimately, the Fallujah attack became a race to the town center between competing ISF forces. Additionally, there was a reluctance to dedicate forces towards Mosul as the ISF remained a Baghdad-based force with 60% of the Iraqi combat power and 100% of the logistics focused around the capital due to security concerns. In fact, throughout the summer of 2016, the Iraqi Prime Minister periodically recalled elements of the ISF to secure the city from Sadrist protestors and ISIS terrorist attacks.

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Yazidi survivor won’t return to Iraq for fear of new ‘genocide’

Nina Larson writes for AFP:

Farida Abbas Khalaf, one of thousands of Yazidi women abducted, raped and brutalised by Islamic State group fighters, says the jihadists' departure has not made it safe to return to Iraq.

"Everything is still the same. The same people who joined (IS) are still in those neighbourhoods. How can we return and trust them again?" Khalaf said in an interview with AFP this week.

"Who will guarantee that genocide will not happen again, by perpetrators using another name?" she asked, speaking through a translator.

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Iraq urges FIFA to lift ban on hosting internationals

AFP reports:

Iraq hopes that hosting Gulf football friendlies, renovating its stadiums and outlawing weapons at matches will have persuaded FIFA to lift a ban on home competitive internationals, its sports minister said.

The country has not played full internationals on home turf for almost three decades, ever since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait that sparked an international embargo.

The ban was briefly lifted in 2012, but a power outage during an Iraq-Jordan match in the Iraqi Kurdish capital Erbil led world's football's governing body promptly to reinstate it.

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How Will Iraq Contain Iran’s Proxies?

Ranj Alaaldin writes for The Atlantic:

In June 2014, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of the leading Shiite clergyman in the world, called on all able-bodied Iraqis to defend their country against the Islamic State. Iraq’s U.S.-trained armed forces had collapsed, fleeing the advance of isis as it seized Mosul and much of northern Iraq. Sistani’s fatwa mobilized a 100,000-strong fighting force known as the Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), whose mostly Shiite fighters were instrumental in the fight against isis. The PMF is comprised of multiple Shiite militias who were established after 2014 as volunteer groups that took up arms in response to Sistani’s fatwa, filling the void left by the collapse of the Iraqi army. The majority of these groups are aligned with the Iraqi state and take their orders from the Iraqi government.

But residing within the PMF are Iran-aligned groups who have become the Forces’ most-powerful militias. While technically they have been under Baghdad’s command since 2016, in reality, they answer to their sponsors in Tehran. These groups have long exploited conflict and disorder in Iraq since the toppling of the Baath regime, while also expanding Iran’s influence in the country. They have been accused of sectarian atrocities that helped lay the groundwork for groups like isis and played a critical role in the bloody 2006 war between Arab Sunnis and Shiites. They have violently resisted attempts by the Iraqi state and the United States to disarm them. Since the emergence of isis and Sistani’s fatwa, these groups have exploited the security vacuum and the weakening of Iraq’s conventional forces to further consolidate their hold. Now, they seem poised to translate their wartime popularity into political gains in the coming elections in May, when they will contest the elections as the al-Fateh (or “Conquest”) bloc.

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Unfair ISIS Trial in Iraq Hands Women Harshest Sentences

Belkis Wille writes for Human Rights Watch:

Six months after about 1,400 foreign women and children surrendered with Islamic State (ISIS) fighters to Iraqi security forces, Iraq’s courts are sentencing the women to life in prison and even to death for non-violent crimes.

It’s just one indicator of how people viewed as colluding with ISIS are receiving unfair trials.

The women have been charged with illegally entering Iraq and, in some cases aiding, abetting or having membership in ISIS, which carries the penalty of life in prison or death under Iraq’s counterterrorism law.

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Winning the Post-ISIS Battle for Iraq in Sinjar

International Crisis Group reports:

Seized by Islamic State (ISIS) militants in August 2014, Sinjar, a majority-Yazidi district on Iraq’s north-western border with Syria, has been the scene of tragedy: a genocidal campaign of killings, rape, abductions and enslavement, and the surviving community’s exodus to safer-ground camps in the adjacent Kurdish region. Incremental efforts to drive ISIS out of Sinjar, starting in November 2015, have brought peace but no political or economic recovery. The district’s occupation by a succession of Iraqi and non-Iraqi sub-state actors has militarised the population, fragmented the elites and prevented the return of the displaced. Only the effective re-entry of the Iraqi state, mediating between factions and reinstating local governance, can fully stabilise Sinjar, lay the ground-work for reconstruction, allow the displaced to return and end foreign interference.

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Iraq’s Water Crisis: A Prognosis

Shwan Mohammed writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

The area historically known as Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, is now suffering from an acute water crisis due to climate change and human actions. For the first time in history, millions of Iraqis who utilize the water supplied by the two great rivers Tigris and Euphrates for drinking, irrigation, power generating and transportation, fear a potential threat to these lifelines.

As many researchers have predicted many years ago, Iraq as part of the Middle East and North African countries, is facing a water shortage problem which is expected to be more severe in the future. Water supplies were reported to be 43 billion cubic meters (BCM) in 2015, and are predicted to drop to about 17.61 BCM in 2025, while the water demand is estimated to be between 66.8 and 77 BCM. According to the World Bank, the Iraqi water deficit in 2030 will reach 25.55 BCM (37%) where the expected supply is 44 BCM only. Worse, it is also estimated that the discharge of the Tigris and Euphrates will continue to decrease with time, and that it will be completely dry by 2040.

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Lebanese president makes landmark visit to Iraq

AFP reports:

President Michel Aoun led a delegation Tuesday to Iraq on the first visit by a Lebanese head of state to the war-scarred country, for talks that included ways to eradicate terrorism.

Aoun held talks with Iraqi President Fuad Masum and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi before he was due to travel to Armenia on Wednesday.

"We had constructive talks which reflect the historical and brotherly ties that link our two countries and our people," Aoun told a joint news conference with Masum.

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The Daring Plan to Save a Religious Minority from ISIS

Jenna Krajeski writes for The New Yorker:

Growing up in northwestern Iraq, Hadi Pir often went to Mt. Sinjar for solace. As a Yazidi, a member of an ancient religious minority, he believed that the narrow mountain was sacred, central to the Yazidi creation myth. Aside from the mountain, the region where the country’s six hundred thousand Yazidis live, also called Sinjar, is flat and desert-like. To Yazidis, it seems clear that God created the mountain because He knew that they would need a place to hide.

After 2003, when the United States invaded Iraq, Pir and Ismael, like many Yazidi men, took jobs as interpreters for the U.S. military. Because they were a targeted religious minority, there was little opportunity outside the Army, and they were unlikely to join the Iraqi insurgency. In the military, they befriended another Yazidi, named Haider Elias, who, in spite of his poor background, spoke nearly perfect English, with a TV-made American accent.

The three men worked with the U.S. for years, often with the Special Forces. Being an interpreter was dangerous—Pir carried two guns, an automatic rifle to kill insurgents and a pistol to kill himself if he faced being kidnapped. On one mission, Pir, working undercover to collect locations of insurgents, met with a Sunni fighter who later became a high-ranking isis militant. On another, his best friend was killed. “We were soldiers, basically, more than interpreters,” Pir told me. After their service, they received special visas to come to the U.S. Elias and Ismael went to Houston, along with a dozen Yazidi families. In 2012, Pir and his wife, Adula, and their daughter, Ayana, ended up in Lincoln, Nebraska, whose Yazidi community, with about a thousand members, is the largest in the U.S.

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