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

Iraq’s Sadr and communists join forces for election

AFP reports:

Supporters of a Shiite cleric are seeing red in the run-up to Iraq's May elections thanks to an unprecedented alliance with the once-powerful communist party.

Populist preacher Moqtada Sadr has defied his clerical rivals and opted to campaign for the May 12 poll alongside former enemies, Marxists who demand a secular state.

"This alliance is a first in Iraq," said Ibrahim Al Jaberi, a Sadrist official.

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Iraq’s Water Crisis: A Threat To National Security

Haidar Sumeri writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

An impending threat to national security could emerge sooner rather than later if serious measures are not taken to address Iraq’s water shortages. Mesopotamia, the land of the Euphrates and Tigris, is where some of the oldest and most notable empires built the Cradle of Civilisation. Thousands of years later, like many across the Middle East and North Africa, these rivers are drying up at an alarming rate alongside hopes for some peace in this beleaguered region of the world.

The Euphrates and Tigris account for much of Iraq’s surface water supply and a perfect storm of decades of mismanagement due to endless wars and corruption, population growth, the rapacity of neighbouring countries and worsening impact of climate change has left Iraq in a very vulnerable position when it comes to the most essential element of life.

The threats posed to Iraq’s national security by the inevitable droughts are innumerable, with the most obvious being famine, epidemics of water-borne diseases due to contamination and socio-economic instability leading to violence and extremism. On the economic front, agriculture has been billed as one of Iraq’s most promising sectors in the struggle for economic diversification. Facing a compounding water shortage, that idea could sadly be stillborn.

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Saudi Arabia’s use of soft power in Iraq is making Iran nervous

The Economist reports:

It almost feels like old times. Before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, Gulf Arabs partied on the banks of the Shatt al-Arab river in southern Iraq. Many owned villas in the fields around Basra and took Iraqi wives. Now, after a break of three decades, they are back. Saudi Arabia is putting the finishing touches on a consulate in Basra's Sheraton hotel, where Iraqi crooners sing love songs and waiters dance. Last month a dozen Saudi poets travelled to Basra for a literary festival.

Saudi interest was initially pricked by America, which has been marshalling Gulf support to help stem Iran's push west. It was a hard sell. Iraq, under Saddam, threatened to invade Saudi Arabia. More recently, it has allowed Shia militias backed by Iran to set up camp on the Saudi border. In response the kingdom, which considers itself the region's Sunni champion, is accused on bankrolling Sunni jihadists in Iraq.

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Iraq’s legendary copper markets fade away

Wassim Bassem writes for Al Monitor:

Mohammad Hassan worries about the steady decline in the number of customers who come to his shop in Baghdad’s Souk al-Safafeer, the legendary copper market in the neighborhood of Bab al-Agha. The shop sports Hassan’s handmade copper products, mostly miniatures of Iraq’s symbols and monuments, such as the palm tree, the Lion of Babylon, the Malwiya Minaret in Samarra and Mosul’s Great Mosque of al-Nuri, which the Islamic State destroyed in 2017.

Hassan, who has been a coppersmith for 30 years, exercises a profession that dates to the Abbasid period of the 10th century, when many everyday goods, from lanterns to water bottles and from cups to knives and daggers, were made of copper. But those days are long gone.

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Iraq’s Shi’ite militias formally inducted into security forces

Reuters reports:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi issued a decree on Thursday formalizing the inclusion of Shi’ite paramilitary groups in the country’s security forces.

According to the decree, members of the Shi’ite militias, an assortment of militia groups known collectively as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), which are mostly backed and trained by Iran, will be granted many of the same rights as members the military.

Paramilitary members will be given equivalent salaries to those members of the military under the Ministry of Defense’s control, the decree said. They will also be subject to the laws of military service and will gain access to military institutes and colleges.

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Cubs of the Caliphate: rehabilitating Islamic State’s child fighters

Raya Jalabi writes for Reuters:

While children who have been through war typically draw devastating pictures of the violence they have suffered, few show themselves as the perpetrators.

Hundreds of children are estimated to have been used as fighters by Islamic State, including boys who joined with their families or were given up by them and the offspring of foreign fighters groomed from birth to perpetuate its ideology.

Experts have warned that indoctrinated children, who began escaping the clutches of Islamic State as its territory fractured last year, could pose an ongoing threat to security, both regionally and in the West, if they are not rehabilitated.

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Money Welcome But No Panacea for Iraq’s Yezidi Victims

Belkis Wille writes for Human Rights Watch:

On Tuesday this week, two days before international Women’s Day and almost four years after ISIS attacks led to the deaths and captivity of thousands of Yezidis in Sinjar, northern Iraq, Iraq’s government has reportedly ordered IQD 2 million (US$1,700) be paid to every Yezidi released from ISIS captivity.

This is a positive step for the Yezidi community. But the money will only go so far, and Yezidi women and girls still need more support to re-build their lives. The pay-out also does not address the hundreds of thousands of other victims of ISIS. A 2009 law allows for victims of “terrorism and military errors” to get compensation, but those who process the claims told me they have tens of thousands of cases piling up without enough staff, inspectors or finances available to meet demand.

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Iraq’s Prime Minister on the Unfinished Business Left By 15 Years of War

Vivienne Walt writes for Time:

In the years since the U.S. invaded in March 2003, Iraq has seen two occupations — one by U.S. forces following the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and another by Islamic State militants after American forces withdrew. Now, after fifteen years of instability and war, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is trying to forge a lasting peace.

That could be almost as tough as fighting the jihadists. Rampant corruption, high unemployment, deep divisions between Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds are just three problems the country needs to overcome, in order to piece together a lasting democracy.

To see how al-Abadi plans to do that, TIME sat down with him in his office, inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, in the palace where Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq until the U.S. invasion in March, 2003. During the discussion, Abadi spoke about the “epidemic” of corruption in his country, what it will take to keep ISIS from regrouping, as well as regional issues such as the war in Syria and the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

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Iraqi court sentences al Qaeda leader’s sister to death

AP reports:

A Baghdad court has convicted the sister of the former leader of al Qaeda in Iraq who was killed in 2010 and sentenced her to death on terrorism charges, a spokesman said Thursday. The spokesman of Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council, Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar, said in a statement that Abu Omar al-Baghdadi's sister was found guilty of "offering logistic support and help to (the militants) in carrying out criminal acts."

The woman, whose name was not released, was also found guilty of "distributing money" among the militants in Mosul. He didn't give more details on the charges or what years she cooperated with al Qaeda in Iraq.

Bayrkdar said the woman's husband was earlier also sentenced to death as a member of the al Qaeda leadership.

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ICRC says has more ‘cooperative’ access to detained Islamic State families

Raya Jalabi reports for Reuters:

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Wednesday it had “increasingly cooperative” access to families of suspected Islamic State militants whose safety in detention has been a focus of concern for foreign aid agencies.

More than 1,000 wives and children have been held in Iraq since the defeat of Islamic State militants in August 2017, and some of the women have gone on trial for joining Islamic State.

Foreign aid agencies said last year they were “gravely concerned” about the fate of the families.

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