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

Water pollution in Iraq threatens Mandaean religious rites

Philip Issa writes for AP:

Every Sunday in Iraq, along a strip of embankment on the Tigris River reserved for followers of the obscure and ancient Mandaean faith, worshippers bathe themselves in the waters to purify their souls.

But unlike in ancient times, the storied river that runs through Baghdad is fouled by untreated sewage and dead carp, which float by in the fast-moving current.

Iraq’s soaring water pollution is threatening the religious rites of its tight-knit Mandaean community, already devastated by 15 years of war that has also affected the country’s other minority sects.

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ISIS Ahvaz ‘mastermind’ killed in Iraq says Tehran

AFP reports:

An ISIS mastermind, named as Abu Zahi and linked to a deadly attack last month in southern Iran, was killed along with "four other terrorists" in Iraq on Tuesday, the elite Revolutionary Guards said in a statement.

The five were killed "during a reconnaissance and surprise operation by forces of the resistance this morning in Iraq's Diyalah province," northeast of Baghdad, the statement said.

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Children of Islamic State group live under a stigma in Iraq

Hamza Hendawi, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Maya Alleruzzo report for AP:

A family of six lost children lives quietly in a small apartment among strangers in this northern Iraqi city. The “man of the house,” an 18-year-old, heads out each morning looking for day labor jobs to pay the rent. His 12-year-old sister acts as the mother, cooking meals, cleaning and caring for her young siblings.

Their home village is less than an hour’s drive away, but they can’t go back — Shiite militiamen burned down their house because their father belonged to the Islamic State group. And they fear retaliation by their former neighbors, so deep is the anger at the militants who once ruled this area.

So the Suleiman children are left to fend for themselves. Their father is in prison. Their mother died years ago. They are traumatized by deaths of loved ones in the war and by their own family turmoil. In their temporary home, they lie low, worried their new neighbors will learn of their family’s IS connection.

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Population growth in Iraq raises concerns

Adnan Abu Zeed writes for Al-Monitor:

British Ambassador Jonathan Wilks warned at a press conference last month that, at its current rate of growth, Iraq's population would increase by a million people per year. Iraq's Central Statistical Organization announced soon after, on Oct. 1, that the country’s population had reached about 38 million in 2018, and that Baghdad’s population had reached more than 8 million.

While Iraq has not conducted any comprehensive census since 1997, these figures, combined with the rising unemployment rate, indicate an imbalance between the growing population and the availability of services.

Najeh al-Obeidi, an economics researcher at the University of Baghdad, is worried that the state will not be able to respond to population growth or provide decent living conditions for Iraqis. “This raises concerns about the future," he said. "Baghdad alone has a population equal to that of the entire country five decades ago.”

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IS reverting to insurgency tactics after losing caliphate

AP reports:

Nearly defeated on the battlefields of its would-be caliphate, analysts say the Islamic State group has reverted to what it was before its spectacular conquests in 2014 — a shadowy insurgent network that targets civilian populations with guerrilla-style attacks and exploits state weaknesses to incite sectarian strife.

In Iraq and Syria, hardly a week goes by without the group staging an attack on a town or village, keeping its opponents on edge even as it fights U.S.-backed forces advancing on the last remaining slice of territory under its control near the countries' shared border.

Hisham al-Hashimi, an IS expert who advises the Iraqi government, said the group now operates like it did in 2010, before its rise in Iraq, which culminated four years later with the militants seizing one of Iraq's biggest cities, Mosul, and also claiming the city of Raqqa in Syria and declaring an Islamic caliphate across large areas of both countries.

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Turkey to reopen its consulates in Iraq’s Basra and Mosul

AP reports:

Turkey’s foreign minister says his country will reopen its consulates in the Iraqi cities of Basra and Mosul and pursue deeper economic and commercial ties with its neighbor.

Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Iraq on Thursday to meet with newly appointed President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi. Turkey exported more than $9 billion in goods to Iraq in 2017.

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Sweden looks at ways to aid and support Iraq, Kurdistan post-ISIS

Rudaw reports:

Sweden is committed to post-ISIS stability in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region because defeating the extremists requires a "whole of government" approach.

"You have to combine the military efforts also with the civilian efforts. You have to make sure that you find a stable and prosperous country also after Daesh has been fought,” Sweden’s Ambassador to Iraq Pontus Melander told Rudaw English.

He said it was important to underline that Sweden's contributions extend beyond the anti-ISIS coalition and military.

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Officer killed, three soldiers seized in west Iraq: sources

Kamal Ayash reports for Reuters:

An army officer was killed and three soldiers were captured in western Iraq after militants attacked their vehicle, security sources said on Thursday.

The attack took place late on Wednesday in the town of Akaz, five kilometers (three miles) from the Qaim district of Anbar province. The unit was delivering food to other troops, the sources told Reuters.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but Islamic State militants are active in the area.

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Turkey agrees to release more water to ease Iraqi shortages

Reuters reports:

President Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to increase releases of water from a dam in southeastern Turkey to neighboring Iraq, which is struggling with a water crisis, the speaker of the Iraqi parliament said on Wednesday.

Turkey is holding back water on the Tigris river to fill a reservoir behind its Ilisu dam, a step that has alarmed Iraq and caused shortages particularly in the southern province of Basra.

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ISIS’s New Plans to Get Rich and Wreak Havoc

Colin P. Clarke writes for Foreign Policy:

Although the Islamic State has lost nearly 98 percent of the territory it once controlled, the group is ripe for a comeback in Sunni-majority areas of Iraq and Syria. The main reason is its existing war chest, coupled with its skill at developing new streams of revenue. The Islamic State used to mostly rely on the territory it controlled, including cities and urban strongholds, to amass billions of dollars through extortion, taxation, robbery, and the sale of pilfered oil. But the group has proven that it is capable of making money even without controlling large population centers.

The Islamic State has also buttressed financial holdings with a diversified funding portfolio. It has developed a knack for raising money through a range of new criminal activities, including but not limited to extortion, kidnapping for ransom, robbery and theft, drug smuggling, and trafficking in antiquities. These activities do not require holding territory, but there are risks involved for individual insurgents, who could, at least in theory, be caught. However, the chances of being arrested are minimal, as even at this late date, there are still no security services or police forces in Iraq or Syria capable of conducting the type of policing activities that would deter widespread criminality. In the near future, the group can also reinvigorate revenue streams that have become dormant by extorting populations living on the periphery of where government control extends. During the years they were in control, Islamic State members meticulously collected personal data from the population that includes detailed information on assets and income, as well as the addresses of extended family members. This critical intelligence on the population provides the group with more leverage in intimidating and extorting civilians, allowing it to replenish cash reserves in the process.

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