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

Drops in temperatures top Kurdistan’s peaks with snow

Rudaw reports:

A cold snap has swept across the Kurdish regions of Iraq, Turkey and Iran, leading to plummeting temperatures, blocked roads, and school closures.

Fazil Ibrahim, the head of the Kurdistan Region’s Earthquake and Meteorological Department, told Rudaw that due to the drop in temperature, snow has shrouded many mountainous areas of the Kurdistan Region.

The highest level of snowfall, 16 centimeters, was recorded in the Kurdistan Region’s town of Haji Omaran which borders Iran followed by Shirwan Mazin (also in Erbil Province), Amedi, Akre and Simelan in Duhok province.

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Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Sistani condemns U.S. decision on Jerusalem

Reuters reports:

Iraq’s senior shi‘ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani condemned on Thursday U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. '‘This decision is condemned and decried, it hurt the feelings of hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims,‘’ said a statement from Sistani’s office.

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He secretly documented Islamic State atrocities as Mosul Eye. Now he’s done hiding

Lori Hinnant and Maggie Michael write for AP:

He would wander the streets of occupied Mosul by day, chatting with shopkeepers and Islamic State fighters, visiting friends who worked at the hospital, swapping scraps of information. He grew out his hair and his beard and wore the shortened trousers required by the extremists. He forced himself to witness the beheadings and stonings, so he could hear killers call out the names of the condemned and their supposed crimes.

By night, anonymously from his darkened room, Mosul Eye told the world what was happening. If caught, he too would be killed.

The revelation of his identity is for his thousands of readers and followers, for all his volunteers in Mosul who have been inspired by a man they have never seen. But above all, it is for the brother who died in the final battle and for his grieving mother.

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The Risk Of Militia Participation In Elections

Hamzeh Hadad writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

As Iraq nears provincial and parliamentary elections in May 2018, it is becoming clear that politicians affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) will take part in the elections. Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi has been very clear that those who want to participate cannot do so as part of the PMF, regardless of the type of role they hold within the paramilitary forces. Members of parliament like Hadi Al-Ameri, a PMF commander, and Ahmed Al-Assadi, the former spokesperson of the PMF have already announced their intentions to run in the elections. They will do so by formally resigning from the PMF, before registering within a political party or  entity. This is not unprecedented in Iraq given participants of previous elections and will not change the politics of the state or the issues it needs to address.

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Hairdressing, sewing, cooking – is this really how we’re going to empower women?

Samira Shackle writes for The Guardian:

In the blue tent on the building site that forms Noora Murat Khalaf’s home, the shiny new sewing machine is incongruous, to say the least.

The sewing machine was given by an NGO, as part of a women’s empowerment programme. Along with a cohort of other displaced Yazidi and Christian women, Khalaf completed a short course in tailoring, learning to sew alongside lessons on business skills.

At first, she was optimistic about the opportunity. She enjoyed the course and hoped it might lead to an income. But in the year since she finished the programme, it has proved impossible to earn money from the sewing machine. “People here in Erbil usually buy their clothes from shops ready-made,” she says. “Yazidi people like traditional tailored clothes, but all the Yazidis here are also refugees, so they have no money.” Occasionally, she mends her family’s clothes or those of neighbours – for free – but otherwise the machine is unused.

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Across the Mideast, friends and foes of the U.S. denounce Trump’s Jerusalem move

Erin Cunningham and Tamer El-Ghobashy write for The Washington Post:

Officials, religious leaders and activists across the Middle East on Thursday condemned President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with U.S. allies and foes alike denouncing the move as reckless and likely to ignite further violence in the region.

Criticism of the move, which breaks with decades of U.S. policy, poured in from countries including Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan and Iran. Lebanon’s Hezbollah called it “malicious aggression,” and Turkey’s president said it would plunge the region into a “ring of fire.”

Abadi, who has partnered closely with the United States in the fight against the Islamic State, said the move could lead to “dangerous escalation” in the region. Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said it has summoned U.S. Ambassador Douglas Silliman to deliver a formal letter of protest.

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Rescuing the lost children of IS

Tim Whewell writes for BBC News:

Tens of thousands of foreign fighters joined so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria - many of them from Russia. What has become of their families now the self-declared caliphate is crumbling?

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New Chapter Begins In Iraq’s War On Terrorism, As Baghdad Sighs In Relief

Haidar Sumeri writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

Major operations in populated areas of Iraq may have ended in a decisive win for Iraq’s armed forces but the decimation of Da’ish in the land of two rivers is not over yet. What was left of Da’ish’s military contingents fled to Iraq’s western desert looking for reprieve but did not find any there. Riding the wave of victory, Iraqi forces are now initiating a new phase in their war on terrorism as they look to root out the Da’ish elements aiming to revive an insurgency. With elections looming on the horizon, the security situation is steadily but cautiously improving. 

Over the last fortnight, Iraqi forces have conducted one of the biggest clearing operations in western Iraq to date, with the aim of dislodging Da’ish remnants from the Jazirah desert region that connects the restive provinces of Ninawa, Salahuddin and Anbar. Within the first five days of this operation, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced that 14,000km2 had been recaptured and secured as Da’ish elements in the desert melted away. This operation marks a historic achievement for the government as it is reasserting control over land that has been out of Baghdad’s reach since the collapse of the former regime in 2003.

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Coalition says fewer than 3,000 IS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria

Ahmed Aboulenein writes for Reuters:

The United States-led international coalition fighting Islamic State estimates that fewer than 3,000 fighters belonging to the hardline Sunni militant group remain in Iraq and Syria, its spokesman said on Tuesday.

Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate has crumbled this year in Syria and Iraq, with the group losing the cities of Mosul, Raqqa and swathes of other territory.

“Current estimates are that there are less than 3,000 #Daesh fighters left - they still remain a threat, but we will continue to support our partner forces to defeat them,” U.S. Army Colonel Ryan Dillon tweeted, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

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Peshmerga ministry dissolves two Yezidi units, cuts salaries

Rudaw reports:

The Kurdistan Region has dissolved two Peshmerga units that were tasked to protect areas in and around the Yezidi town of Shingal following the deployment of Iraqi forces to these places, officials told Rudaw.
The two affected units are Ezidkhan Protection Units and Shingal Command who jointly had more than 13,000 Peshmerga fighters prior to the withdrawal of the Peshmerga from the disputed areas in mid-October.
The Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi has its own Yezidi force and has been in control of Shingal and most other Yezidi areas since then.

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