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

Iraq MPs call for timetable for foreign troop pullout

AFP reports:

Iraq's parliament called for the government to draw up a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country in a resolution passed on Thursday, the speaker's office said.

"The Iraqi parliament expresses its gratitude to all countries which have supported Iraq in its fight against Daesh and calls for the government to draw up a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops," it said in a statement.

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Thousands of displaced Iraqis sent home despite risks: report

Reuters reports:

Iraqi authorities are forcing thousands of displaced people to return to their home areas too soon despite the risk of death from booby-traps or acts of vigilantism, a report by refugee aid groups said on Wednesday.

At least 8,700 displaced Iraqis in predominantly Sunni Muslim Anbar province were forced to return from camps to their areas of origin in the final six weeks of 2017, it said.

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Kurdistan Region of Iraq: Protesters, Journalists Detained

Human Rights Watch reports:

Kurdistan Regional Government security forces detained participants in December 2017 protests around Sulaymaniyah and forced them to sign statements promising not to criticize the government, Human Rights Watch said today.

The detained protesters were held for up to eight days without being taken before a judge and were forced, before being released, to sign commitments not to protest or be critical of the government on social media. The KRG’s Asayish forces also detained three journalists who were covering protests, apparently for their work.

“The Kurdistan Regional Government’s response to protests goes far beyond its right to arrest and prosecute people responsible for violence,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The KRG forces’ heavy-handed tactics appear to be an attempt to silence criticism despite the official narrative that the authorities respect citizens’ rights to speech and free assembly.”

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Thousands of Iraqis too scared to go home because of ISIS stigma

Emma Batha writes for Reuters:

Hundreds of Iraqi families forced to flee last year's fighting in Mosul are being prevented from returning home by their communities because they had a relative who joined Islamic State, an aid worker said on Tuesday.

Communities are also barring some families from accessing aid for the same reason, said Omar Ali, Iraq country director of British charity Human Appeal.

Others have had "ISIS family" daubed on their old homes, jeopardising their safety, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of the Bond international development conference in London.

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Baghdad’s first female bookseller breaks barriers

Rachel Elbaum writes for NBC News:

Along one of Baghdad’s oldest streets, a new bookstore is making waves — not for the titles it sells but for who owns it.

Bara’a Abdul Hadi Mudher al-Biyati is the first woman to run a shop and publishing house on al-Muntanabbi Street, home to the Iraqi capital’s historic book market.

Named after a 10th century Iraqi poet, al-Muntanabbi Street is the literary heart of the city, and until recently, its bookshops and stalls have been run by men only.

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Iraq’s ethnic, religious groups fragmented as elections near

Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sinan Salaheddin write for AP:

Long beset by toxic divisions, Iraq seems to be growing even more fragmented ahead of national elections scheduled for May, with Iranian influence set to grow and the minority Sunnis seething as they fend for themselves in areas of the country shattered by the three-year war against the Islamic State group.

The Sunnis, many of them in displacement camps, bore the brunt of the war's destruction and have been left so bereft that many don't even have the papers needed to register to vote. If they don't end up feeling the vote was fair, that could badly undermine the international community's goal of bringing about the more inclusive government critical to maintaining a unified state and avoiding a repeat of the IS disaster.

Adding to the volatile mix are the Iranian-backed Shiite militias, now even more politically involved, which are allied with but not controlled by the Shiite-led Baghdad government, and appear set to gain influence that would alarm many in the region trying to check the power of Shiite, non-Arab Iran.

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Baghdad extends flight ban on Iraqi Kurdistan

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq on Monday extended a ban on international flights to and from the autonomous Kurdish region.

Tensions between Baghdad and Erbil escalated after the latter held an independence referendum in September that overwhelmingly backed secession from the rest of Iraq.

The ban, scheduled to be lifted on February 28, has been extended by three months, a senior official at Erbil airport said.

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Guilty by association: Families of suspected Islamic State members pay a steep price

Alexandra Zavis writes for LA Times:

Aliya Mohammed begged her son not to get mixed up with Islamic State. Now she is paying the price for his decision to defy her.

Today, months after the fighting ended, she is trapped in a camp for the displaced in the town of Hamam Alil — one of thousands of people, the majority of them women and children, who fled their homes during the war and now cannot return because relatives are said to have a connection to Islamic State.

Many are afraid to leave the camps. But even if they want to do so, they often find it impossible to get the necessary paperwork. The craving for revenge against Islamic State runs deep — as does the fear that the militants could make a comeback.

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Iraq’s Real Weapons Of Mass Destruction Were ‘Political Operations’

Samuel Helfont writes for War on the Rocks:

Influence operations are by their nature clandestine. In other words, if they are done well, we do not even know they occurred. As such, in most cases it is difficult to obtain reliable information on how exactly they were planned or carried out. Fortunately, most cases are not all cases. In fact, we have troves of sources on one very important and still fairly recent case: Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The now-opened archives of the Iraqi Ba‘th Party have already provided stunning insights into how Saddam ruled his country. They also shed significant light on Ba'thist operations outside of Iraq.

Iraqi Ba‘thists were engaged in what they called “political” operations. Their goal was to influence the internal politics of other states to help Iraq achieve its strategic goals. They carried out espionage, planted stories in the foreign press, established overt and covert relations with various parties, and attempted to silence anyone who disrupted their preferred political narrative. In short, their activities match what others in the West have termed political warfare or influence operations. And they were quite good at it. As Angelo Codevilla, the statesman-turned-Boston University professor, has noted, “In our time, the past master in the techniques of political warfare may well have been Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Between 1991 and 2003 politics was Saddam’s ‘weapon of mass destruction’.” Iraq’s internal documents not only demonstrate the details of its fairly successful influence operations in the 1990s, they also highlight the ­limitations of such operations. Most importantly, the Iraqi case suggests that such operations cannot be used in a vacuum. Like other aspects of national power, if they are not employed in accordance with broader geopolitical realities, they will likely fall flat.

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Iraq: Families of Alleged ISIS Members Denied IDs

Human Rights Watch reports:

Iraqi security officers are routinely denying relatives of suspected Islamic State (also known as ISIS) members the security clearance needed to obtain identity cards and other documents, Human Rights Watch said today. Denying government benefits because of perceived family relationships instead of individual security determinations is a form of collective punishment prohibited under international human rights law.

Iraqis lacking full civil documentation can readily be deprived of their basic rights. They cannot freely move around for fear of arrest, nor can they get a job or apply for welfare benefits. Children denied birth certificates may be considered stateless and may not be allowed to enroll in school. Women unable to obtain death certificates for their spouses are unable to inherit property or remarry.

“Iraq’s security forces are marginalizing thousands of families of ISIS suspects by depriving them of the basic documents they need to rebuild their lives,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Unless this collective punishment stops, the authorities will be further destabilizing the situation in Mosul and other former ISIS-held cities.”

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