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

After victory over ISIS, Mosul discovers the cost: Homes were turned into graves

Kareem Fahim and Aaso Ameen Schwan write for The Washington Post:

Aya Abosh found her sister in the house where she spent her final moments, trapped with her boys as shells fell from the sky and caved in the roof.

This was the site of Iraq’s landmark military victory just weeks ago that ended the Islamic State extremist group’s wrenching occupation of Mosul and crippled the militants’ odious ambitions for the Middle East, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said. There were noisy, flag-waving celebrations, even as the prime minister reminded the nation that there had been “blood and sacrifices,” too.

Only now is the terrible cost of the victory emerging, in quarters of the Old City ground to rubble by airstrikes and shelling and suicide bombs. For under the barrage were thousands of homes packed with families. Hundreds of the houses were transformed into graves.

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Iraqi forces make fresh gains in Tal Afar offensive

Reuters reports:

Iraqi forces made further gains in their offensive to dislodge Islamic State from Tal Afar, seizing five more villages on the eastern and southern outskirts of the city, the military said on Thursday.

In the fifth day of their onslaught, Iraqi forces continued to encircle jihadists holding out in the city in far northwestern Iraq close to the Syrian border, according to statements from the Iraqi joint operations command.

Within the city limits, Iraqi forces captured three more neighborhoods - al-Nour and al-Mo'allameen in the east and al-Wahda in the west, taking over several strategic buildings in the process.

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PM Abadi, Don’t Abandon Assyrians In The Nineveh Plains

Hamzeh Hadad writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

The Assyrian towns of Alqosh and Tel Keppe located in the Nineveh Plains have been targeted by Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) by consecutively replacing their democratically elected mayors with KDP’s own surrogates. This is in effort to force the Nineveh Plains to be incorporated within the Kurdistan region’s borders despite Alqosh and Tel Keppe being part of Nineveh province, and, therefore, under the administration of the federal government of Iraq. The series of mayoral changes has sparked several protests by the locals of Alqosh who reject KDP’s oppressive tactics. Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi must answer the call for help from the citizens of the Nineveh Plains and reassure that the federal government will look after them as Iraqi citizens and not leave them prey to the KDP’s expansionism.

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Iraqi court issues 26 jail sentences to corrupt politicians

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq’s anti-corruption court has issued 26 jail sentences to high-ranking Iraqi officials in a push to eliminate corruption and fraud in the country.

Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi announced on Wednesday that his government had taken crucial steps to stem corruption, which has crippled the economy.

“We have taken rapid steps to tackle corruption, we have arrested and charged a number of corrupt officials,” Mr Al Abadi said in a tweet.

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Why America Is Destroying Iraqi Cities to Save Them

John Spencer writes for The National Interest:

Mosul is destroyed. Many of the estimated 875,000 residents displaced by the fighting can’t return home because their houses are among the piles of rubble left behind. Mosul joins cities like Stalingrad, Hue, Grozny, and more recently, Aleppo and Raqqa—all destroyed by violent combat. The so-called victory in Mosul should give us cause to question the limited options available to militaries forced to fight in cities.

Estimates of the cost of rebuilding Mosul range into the billions. The deaths of thousands of civilians and the loss of heritage sites, like the Great Mosque of al-Nuri, can never be recouped. Did the removal of ISIS require destroying Iraq’s second largest city? Unfortunately, yes.

To be clear, Mosul was not a battle fought by the U.S. military. But the Iraqi forces who undertook this urban fight did so with U.S. advice, training and tools—including advanced surveillance technology and firepower—and their performance offers illustrative lessons about the limits of the methods and capabilities available for urban combat.

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Iraqis cite progress in driving IS from Tal Afar

Sinan Salaheddin reports for AP:

Iraqi forces said Wednesday they have captured two neighborhoods on the edge of the Islamic State-held town of Tal Afar.

Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Rasheed Yar Allah, who commands the operation, said special forces drove the militants from al-Kifah al-Janoubi on the southwestern edge of the town, and that federal police and paramilitary units took al-Kifah al-Shamali in the northwest.

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Mattis Asks Iraqi Kurds to Put Off Vote on Independence

Michael R. Gordon writes for The New York Times:

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis asked the president of Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region on Tuesday to postpone a referendum next month on Kurdish independence.

Mr. Mattis’s meeting with President Massoud Barzani was part of a broader push by American officials to head off what they fear may be a new period of political instability as Iraq continues its battle against the Islamic State.

“Our point right now is to stay focused like a laser beam on the defeat of ISIS and to let nothing distract us,” Mr. Mattis told reporters, using an acronym for the Islamic State, shortly before flying to Erbil, the capital of the autonomous region.

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Troops make progress in Tal Afar battle as U.S. defense secretary visits Iraq

Idrees Ali and Raya Jalabi write for Reuters:

Government forces breached the city limits of Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq on Tuesday on the third day of a U.S.-backed offensive to seize it back from Islamic State militants.

Tal Afar, a longtime Islamic State stronghold, is the latest objective in the war following the recapture of Mosul after a nine-month campaign that left much of that city in ruins.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, speaking just before arriving in Iraq on Tuesday, said the fight against IS was far from over despite recent successes by the Western-backed government. The Sunni Muslim jihadists remain in control of territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria.

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Kurds’ Risky Dream of Independence

The New York Times Editorial Board writes:

After yearning for independence for generations, Kurds in Iraq are scheduled to take a major step in that direction with a nonbinding referendum set for Sept. 25. The vote, expected to endorse a separate state, would be a mistake, increasing turmoil in a part of the world roiled by the fight against the Islamic State and further threatening Iraq’s territorial integrity. Postponement makes better sense.

In many ways, independence is a logical next step for the five million Iraqi Kurds, who carved out their semiautonomous enclave after the 1991 gulf war. Now that their military forces have played a pivotal role in helping to defeat the Islamic State, the Kurds think they are entitled to this long-promised referendum.

There are also serious problems. Two families, the Barzanis and the Talabanis, control politics; corruption is widespread. Because of political infighting, Kurdistan’s parliament has not met since October 2015; the region’s president, Masoud Barzani, remains in office four years after his term ended. Declining oil prices and disputes with Iraq’s central government have left the Kurdistan government in debt. Kurdish authorities are accused of discriminating against minorities. Could Kurdistan make it as an independent state if Iraq and neighboring states stayed hostile to the idea?

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Yazidi PMU Fighters Face Uncertainty in the KRG

1001 Iraqi Thoughts writes:

Iraq’s Yazidi community remains deeply traumatized by the genocide carried out against it by the Islamic State beginning in August 2014. As if the mass murder, enslavement of thousands of women, and destruction of their ancestral homeland were not enough, Yazidis also face suspicion and unchecked abuse at the hands of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) authorities; their self-proclaimed protectors.

After the liberation of the district’s north in late 2014, Sinjar was effectively divided into two spheres of influence; the KDP and the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a creation of the PKK which has received occasional support from the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). A kind of uneasy peace held between the two forces (with some exceptions) as each party sought to gain the support of those Yazidi residents who remained in Sinjar.

The advent of the Iraqi Government’s Mosul Offensive and subsequent campaign to liberate southern Sinjar introduced a third and potentially more potent competitor for the district’s hearts and minds; the Yazidi Lalish Battalion of the PMU. The existing factions that predated the Lalish’s arrival in the south had cause for concern about this new development. The ruling KDP maintained its dominance in the north through a combination of patronage, intimidation, and sheer force. The YBS on the other hand, while having earned the good will of locals for its defense of Sinjar, succeeded in angering many Yazidis by forcibly conscripting and indoctrinating children into an ideology alien to Sinjar’s conservative mores.

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