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

Exclusive: Iraq PM’s draft government programme focuses on combating corruption

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq's Prime Minister designate Adel Abdul Mahdi is expected to present his new cabinet to parliament for approval on Wednesday.

A draft copy of Mr Abdul Mahdi's four-year government programme obtained by The National says the new cabinet will focus on issues such as corruption, Basra's water crisis, reconstruction and economic development.

Mr Abdul Mahdi is expected to present his draft copy for parliament approval. If he fails to convince lawmakers another candidate could be chosen for the top post.

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Why is oil-rich Kirkuk so poor?

Mariya Petkova writes for Al Jazeera:

On the way from Erbil to Kirkuk, it starts smelling of oil even before one gets near the oil-rich Iraqi city. Smoke can be seen rising from the white chimneys of small oil refineries on each side of the highway, while heavy oil trucks line up at checkpoints separating Kirkuk province from the Kurdish semi-autonomous region.

Kirkuk's complicated politics become clear at the entrance to the city, where a large statue of a Peshmerga fighter in traditional Kurdish dress waves an Iraqi flag.

When it was unveiled in early 2017, the statue held the KRG flag: red, white, green and a sun in the middle. Two and a half years earlier the KRG - which claims the ethnically mixed Kirkuk as historically Kurdish territory - took control of the city after dispatching its Peshmerga forces to prevent Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) from capturing it.

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Car bomb kills six, wounds 30 near Iraq’s Mosul

Reuters reports:

At least six people were killed, including two soldiers, and 30 wounded in a car bomb blast in the northern Iraqi town of Qayyara on Tuesday, police and medical sources said.

A vehicle packed with explosives was parked near a restaurant and a crowded market area in Qayyara, south of the city of Mosul, police said. Health officials and police had earlier put the death toll at four but said it could rise as some of the wounded were in a critical in condition.

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The Eclipse of Sectarianism

Hassan Hassan writes for The Atlantic:

The sectarian fervor widely associated with the Middle East has recent roots. A chain of political and religious upheavals, beginning in 1979, ignited and fueled sectarian hatred and added an ethnic bent to it. The results were catastrophic: Sectarianism caused deep societal fissures and cost hundreds of thousands of lives over a sustained period of time.

Almost exactly 40 years after this surge in sectarianism began, however, we might finally be witnessing its ebb. Sectarianism today is arguably at a recent low, and a reversal of the main causes that catalyzed and intensified it suggests that the demobilization might continue.

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Traditional Arts Festival celebrates colorful Kurdistan

Rudaw reports:

A multicultural festival is taking place in downtown Erbil this week celebrating the traditional arts of Erbil, Baghdad, Sulaimani, Duhok, Basra, and Rojava.

Hiwa Suad, head of the Erbil Artists Syndicate, says the event demonstrates the spirit of solidarity among different ethnic groups living in the Region.

“We understand how valuable such events are, so we are working to develop them in order to introduce our nation to other nations’ cultures,” Suad said.

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Iraq’s outgoing vice president says government formation dictated by leading Shiite blocs

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq's outgoing vice president told The National on Monday that an online application for ministerial posts is disingenuous and that the formation of the next government is being dictated by the two dominant Shiite parties alone.

There are "no governmental negotiations, instead two political blocs are dominating the country's political formation and they are Sairoon and Fatah," said Ayad Allawi, one of country's three vice presidents.

Following the appointment of prime minister designate Adel Abdul Mahdi in October, the Iraqi leader has been given until next week to submit his cabinet and bring together different political factions to parliament.

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Return of unusual Sufi ceremonies banned under ISIS

AP reports:

An Islamic religious order popular in Iraq shows a glimpse of their religious ceremonies.

They test their devotion by performing physical endurance tests and pierce parts of their bodies with knives and skewers.

The Islamic order, Tariqah Al Kasnazaniyah, embraces Sufi traditions, which is a mystical Islamic belief.

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US Says Committed to Syria, Iraq Beyond Anti-IS Efforts

Sirwan Kajjo writes for Voice of America:

U.S. officials said Tuesday they will keep working to stabilize areas they helped liberate from Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

With IS's so-called caliphate crumbled, the U.S. and its allies now seek long-term solutions for the region, emphasizing that the next phase will focus on providing local partners the means to ensure sustained stability in areas previously held by the terror group.

“The theme of the day is the conventional fight. While not over, we can see the endpoint,” Brett McGurk, U.S. special envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, told reporters at an annual meeting in Washington on countering violent extremism.

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The orphans left behind by the Islamic State

Olivier Laurent and Tamer El-Ghobashy write for The Washington Post:

Since declaring victory over the Islamic State late last year, Iraq has grappled with a host of issues emanating from the drawn-out war to uproot the militant group: billions of dollars in damage to cities and towns, more than a million people still displaced and millions more struggling to rebuild their lives.

But there is also other, less visible trauma resulting from the battles. In orphanages in Baghdad and Mosul, which was the Islamic State’s capital in Iraq, children born to both foreign and local fighters are learning to cope with abandonment and reentry into a society they can hardly understand.

These vulnerable victims, photographed by Maya Alleruzzo of the Associated Press, come from wrenching backgrounds: Some were brought to Iraq from Europe and Asia by parents eager to join the Islamic State and have since died. Others were local children simply left behind. Some were the products of rape, an atrocity frequently committed by Islamic State fighters.

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Is There Hope for Reform in Post-Election Iraq?

Toby Dodge writes for Foreign Affairs:

At last, after months of deadlock following national elections in May, Iraq is on its way to a new government. The president, Barham Saleh, and prime minister, Adil Abdul Mahdi, are both veteran Iraqi politicians known as technocrats and reformers. The international community greeted their ascent with optimism, in the hope that these figures will drag the government out of the corruption, institutional incoherence, and alienation in which it has been mired since 2003.

But the international community has repeatedly invested too much hope in the ability of one or two individuals to change an entire failing system. Today’s narrative conjures up memories of a version from 2006, when Nouri al-Maliki replaced Ibrahim al-Jaafari as prime minister, and 2014, when Haider al-Abadi replaced Maliki. Both leaders subsequently failed to tackle the vested interests and structural constraints that hinder reform.

Even the most well-intentioned reformers in Iraq are hamstrung by the muhasasa taifa, a system of sectarian apportionment that has informally structured government formation since 2005. This system was set up to give representatives of the different communities in Iraq—Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd—a stake in government and hence a commitment to peace. However, the system circumvents the constitution and marginalizes the role of parliament by empowering party bosses to allocate the three top positions and the majority of cabinet posts based on sectarian and ethnic identity. This covert backroom apportionment, fuelled by unrestrained corruption and carried out in the name of ethnosectarian balancing, has delegitimized the post-2003 governance of Iraq and alienated the vast majority of the population from the ruling elite.

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