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

Escaped Bear Startles Pedestrians on Crowded Street

Carrie Arnold writes for National Geographic:

Pedestrians in Basra, Iraq, got quite a shock this morning: A huge bear lumbering across the street. The animal had escaped from a shop where it was being held for sale, according to local news reports.

Onlookers captured footage of the Syrian brown bear ambling through crowded streets of the Persian Gulf port city before it was captured and returned to the shop.

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Iraq PM says Kurds face budget cuts like everyone else

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi attempted to patch up relations with Kurdish lawmakers on Thursday after they boycotted parliament’s annual budget session over looming cuts.

Baghdad withheld budget payments to the Kurdish region in 2014, justifying the move on the Erbil's decision to sell crude oil independently of the central government.

But parliament failed on Wednesday to pass its annual budget due to Kurdish, Sunni and some Shiite blocs skipping the session in protest.

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After ISIS, Two Iraqs Emerge in Iran’s Shadow

Callum Paton writes for Newsweek:

In describing the three years he spent fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group from the banks of the Tigris to the Makhoul mountains and Iraq’s desert frontier with Syria, Mohammed Jassem did not call himself a soldier.

Fresh from battle, flush with victory, Jassem is a Shiite holy warrior, a mujahid.

On his battered mobile phone, Jassem played a grainy video from November 2017 of fighting in the deserts around al-Qa’im, the last ISIS-held town in Iraq, before the vital strategic link in the militants’ once expansive supply network was liberated.

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‘His death kills me each day’: Mosul residents return home – to what?

Mona Mahmood writes for The Guardian:

Overwhelmed with grief and anger, families have been returning to what is left of their homes in the Old City of Mosul, following its liberation from Isis.

In a set of interviews conducted over more than two months, people haunted by the memories of their loved ones gradually opened up about the traumatic experiences they survived, and the uncertain future they now face.

They reveal the most chilling images of the horror of war, the extraordinary hardship of marching to a safe haven under ferocious shelling, the trauma of constant contact with death and the terrible struggle to survive in a ruined city.

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How the people of Mosul subverted ISIS ‘apartheid’

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad writes for The Guardian:

The day Isis attacked Mosul, Wassan, an affable young doctor with a cherubic face, ran from the maternity ward to the emergency room at Jimhoriya hospital. Injured civilians had begun pouring in. Wassan had just graduated from medical school, and had no experience in treating trauma casualties. As the wounded continued to arrive, what she lacked in knowledge she tried to make up for with enthusiasm.

By the evening, the wards were overflowing, patients spilling into the corridors. Wassan slept overnight in the hospital, ignoring her father’s incessant phone calls to come home.

The next morning, when mortar shells started falling near the hospital, doctors and patients alike piled into ambulances and fled across the bridge to the east side of the city.

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Iraq’s Militias Set Their Sights on Political Power

Rhys Dubin writes for Foreign Policy:

This month, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced an unexpected political alliance with the leader of an Iranian-aligned militia. Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the Badr Organization, was set to join Abadi’s grand coalition of political parties slated to run for election in May.

The alliance provoked a swift backlash from across Iraq’s political spectrum. Long seen as a nationalist by Western governments, the prime minister was traditionally viewed as Amiri’s political enemy. Just days earlier, the two were exchanging slurs and heated accusations, with Abadi singling out militias like those allied to Amiri for particularly harsh criticism.

While the proposed coalition dissolved only a day later, the move stoked concern within the U.S. and other Western governments — which have long seen factions of the so-called Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), such as Badr, as an Iranian fifth column — intent on destabilizing the central government.

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ISIS Is Weakened, but Iraq Election Could Unravel Hard-Won Stability

Margaret Coker and Falih Hassan write for The New York Times:

In just three years, the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has rebuilt the army, defeated the Islamic State and restored sovereignty across this deeply divided nation, accomplishments that, in the eyes of many, give him the stature of an Iraqi Abe Lincoln.

Still, as Mr. Abadi is quick to warn in weekly addresses to the nation, stability remains fragile.

The country is coping with an ever-bubbling threat of violent sectarianism between the Shiite and Sunni populations — as well as endemic government corruption and overwhelming economic despair, especially among millions of citizens left homeless after the battles against the Islamic State.

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A Journey Into Iraqi Kurdistan

Tim Neville writes for The New York Times:

The Mar Mattai monastery clings to the side of a steep mountain, and on a clear day a visitor can stand against its fortresslike walls and discern far below the winsome farmlands of Upper Mesopotamia. Here, in the cradle of civilization, the building is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world. From this peaceful perch, it is difficult to imagine the horror.

One hazy morning last spring, Harry Schute, a retired Army colonel in his 50s with a Cheshire grin, walked through the monastery’s heavy doors and along its shaded arcades. A boy played with a soccer ball in the courtyard, the boom of each kick cracking off the stone walls. At its peak in the 9th century, the monastery housed as many as 7,000 monks. Today it has five, a bishop, this boy and his family — all survivors of the Islamic State.

We were on the western fringes of Kurdistan, a Netherlands-size, semiautonomous region in the north of Iraq that is home to 5.2 million of the world’s estimated 30 million Kurds, a stateless people who populate the border regions between Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria. The fact that the monastery still stood; that this Christian boy and his family were still alive; that a small group of North Americans now felt safe enough to travel here — all of it seemed like a miracle.

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While Transitioning, Please Mind The Gap!

Craig Whiteside writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

The Iraqi-led campaign to defeat the Islamic State’s political project has been a remarkable success, in ways that many observers could not have imagined in the dark days of 2014. Nonetheless, even the most optimistic observer would agree that the war is not over. The Islamic State’s revival following their previous defeat (circa 2008) is a reminder to all what can happen if the appropriate attention is not paid to the threat of another resurgence. Furthermore, there is plenty of evidence that the Islamic State has been engaged in a full transition from a proto-state with governing structures, to the lean structure of a networked guerilla army over the last six months, intent on building for another challenge.

Having decisively defeated the conventional forces of the Islamic State, it is important for the anti-Daesh coalition to match the Islamic State’s transition with one of its own. Unlike the recent campaign, where the coalition’s force defeated the caliphate in a largely conventional style – including heavy urban combat, the next phase of conflict will be dominated by an irregular style of warfare. The question is, will the Iraqi security forces be ready?

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The bureaucracy of evil: how Islamic State ran a city

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad writes for The Guardian:

Every day, early in the morning, the former missile scientist would leave his house in Mosul. Riding buses, or on foot – he could no longer afford petrol – he’d call on friends, check on his mother or visit his sister’s family. Sometimes he’d hunt for cheap kerosene, or try to score contraband books or cigarettes. Most often, he’d meander aimlessly – a traveller in his own city.

In the evening, he’d sit at his old wooden desk, bent over his notebook, recording the day. Most of what he wrote was banal: the price of tomatoes, a quarrel with his wife. But he also wrote his observations of the remarkable events unfolding in Mosul.

By the time he stopped writing, he’d filled five volumes. They are the handwritten diaries of a city under occupation, and a chart of how the Islamic State tried to live up to its name – by running a city.

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