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

Defeat of ISIS in Iraq Caused $45.7 Billion in Damage to Infrastructure, Study Finds

Michael R. Gordon and Isabel Coles write for The Wall Street Journal:

The U.S.-backed military campaign that defeated Islamic State militants in Iraq has resulted in $45.7 billion in damage to the country’s houses, power plants, schools and other civilian infrastructure, according to a new assessment by experts at the World Bank and the Iraqi government.

Teams of experts pored over satellite imagery, conducted on-site checks and studied social media to prepare the report, which is the most extensive inventory to date of the destruction caused by more than three years of war.

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Elections And Old Faces: How Often Do Iraq’s Political Elite Change?

Hashim Al-Rikabi writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

Some commentators in Iraq have dismissed the significance of the upcoming elections by arguing that its results are inconsequential since the political class perpetuates itself through several means, namely via established patronage networks. But the results of previous elections challenge such claims, as evident in the low re-election rate, which suggests that the power of the electorate to hold representatives to account should not be underestimated.

Of the 210 incumbents who contested the 2014 parliamentary elections, only 39% (81) secured their seats. In other words, incumbents represented only 25% of the Council of Representatives in 2014.These numbers are considered very low comparing to established democracies, for example, the reelection rate in the United States averaged over 80%.

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Kurdistan Regional Government: Allegations of Mass Executions

Human Rights Watch reports:

New evidence suggests that between August 28 and September 3, 2017, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Asayish security forces from the West of the Tigris branch carried out mass executions of alleged Islamic State (also known as ISIS) fighters in their custody, which constitutes a war crime, Human Rights Watch said today.
The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Peshmerga military forces detained the men, both foreign and Iraqi, in a school in Sahil al-Maliha, a village 70 kilometers northwest of Mosul. Asayish forces bused them to a prison in Shilgia, a village 45 kilometers away, according to a now retired security force member, and from there they took them to two sites in the vicinity of the town of Zummar, where they executed them. Human Rights Watch located an apparent mass grave site where Asayish buried at least some of the bodies after the executions, according to the retired security force member and six residents of the neighboring village. KRG criminal justice authorities should investigate the apparent war crimes and prosecute those implicated up to the highest levels of responsibility.

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Iraq storms ISIL camp and retakes villages in north-east desert region

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraqi forces stormed an ISIL camp and retook several villages from the extremists on Wednesday, as Baghdad launched operations to rid a northeastern desert region of insurgents.

The offensive — which comes just two months after Iraq declared victory over ISIL — is also targeting members of the little-known "White Flag" militant group, which is believed to have Kurdish links.

"With the goal of enforcing security and stability, destroying sleeper cells, and continuing clearing operations, an operation was launched in the early hours of Wednesday morning to search and clear areas east of Tuz Khurmato (50 kilometres from Kirkuk city)," the Iraqi armed forces said.

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Baghdad mayor has ambitious plans for her city

Sammy Ketz writes for AFP:

The mayor of Baghdad wants to revive her war-torn city, fix its decrepit infrastructure and twin it with Paris -- another female-led metropolis.

Thikra Alwash, a 60-year-old civil engineer and only woman mayor of a Middle East capital, faces a mountainous task.

She has given herself 10 years to revive the city, heart of the Abassid Caliphate and the centre of Arab and Muslim civilisation for five centuries.

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America’s ISIS Jihadists Were Largely Duds

Robin Wright writes for The New Yorker:

For all the hype about Americans joining isis, the majority never saw combat during the Islamic State’s three-year rule. They were largely marginal players in the jihadist caliphate—often working in menial jobs as cooks, mechanics, cleaners, or orderlies. In the end, many became disillusioned and looked for a way out, a new study, “The Travelers: American Jihadists in Syria and Iraq,” reported, on Tuesday.

“For many of the returnees, life in jihadist-held territory did not live up to their expectations,” the report, by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, concludes. “The propaganda, while enthralling, presented an idealized version of reality, meaning that their real-world experience upon arrival was often jarring. Living conditions were much harsher than they saw in the online magazines and videos, and the promises of companionship and camaraderie were rarely fulfilled. Instead, cultural clashes, bitter infighting, and suspicion among recruits and leaders abounded.”

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US begins reducing troops in Iraq after victory over IS

Susannah George and Qassim Abdul-Zahra report for AP:

The U.S. has started to reduce the number of its troops in Iraq following Baghdad’s declaration of victory over the Islamic State group last year, an Iraqi government spokesman and Western contractors said Monday.

The move marks a shift in priorities for the U.S. following the collapse of the extremists’ so-called caliphate late last year. It also comes about three months ahead of Iraqi national elections in which paramilitary groups with close ties to Iran are set to play a decisive role.

Dozens of U.S. soldiers have been transported from Iraq to Afghanistan on daily flights in the past week, along with weapons and equipment, the contractors said.

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Iraq prepares for fresh anti ISIL push

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraqi forces announced on Sunday the launch of new operations to liberate three provinces from ISIL. News of the offensive comes just two months after Baghdad declared victory over the extremists.

In an attempt to avoid a return to its previous form, military operations are set to target insurgent cells in eastern Kirkuk, the multi-ethnic town of Tuz Khurmato and the provinces of Diyala and Anbar.

General Abul Amir Yarallah said “it is vital to maintain security in eastern Kirkuk and in Tuz Khurmatu to ensure that displaced people are returned home safely.”

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The Islamic State’s toxic farewell: Environmental sabotage and chronic disease

Tamer El-Ghobashy and and Joby Warrick write for The Washington Post:

Like any typical 15-year-old, Ahmed Jassim stays glued to his smartphone, watching music videos and playing games. In his family’s modest living room with dark concrete walls, the light from the phone’s screen illuminates his handsome but gaunt face.

But unlike his peers, Ahmed doesn’t go outside to play soccer or fly kites. Simple activities tire him out quickly because his heart is permanently damaged, the result of inhaling the smoke that blanketed this town of farmers and shepherds after Islamic State militants ignited nearby oil wells.

“He hates life. He just hates life,” his mother, Rehab Fayad, said wistfully. “It’s affected him not just physically, but psychologically.”

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A New Era Beckons For Iraqi-Saudi Relations

Mehiyar Kathem writes for War on the Rocks:

Iraq is witnessing a rare moment of confidence. The defeat of the Islamic State in the country, along with the Iraqi government’s proactive measures to prevent conflict from erupting over territorial claims by separatist Kurds, has helped Iraq start to pull itself out of the abyss. An important but frequently overlooked subplot of this story is that Iraqi-Saudi ties are warmer than they have been in three decades — the partial result of a U.S. policy gambit.

The recent thaw in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq marks a key policy change. The United States and Saudi Arabia see the need for a strong Iraq to counter Iran’s expansionism and to bring a semblance of stability to a conflict-prone region. America’s policy towards Iraq now relies heavily on forging a strong Saudi-Iraqi partnership, which relieves the U.S. government from having to fund Iraq’s rebuilding. America’s new approach envisages closer security and economic cooperation between Iraq and its Gulf neighbors, working together to reverse the destructive sectarianism of the past few years. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has capitalized on this change, turning it into an opportunity to seek regional support to address his country’s urgent reconstruction needs.

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