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

Violence Continues To Fall As Iraq Ushers In The New Year

Ali Hadi Al-Musawi writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

Civilian casualties from violent attacks in Iraq fell by 45% in December compared to the previous month, according to the United Nations. The figures released by UNAMI show that a total of 69 civilians were killed and 142 injured across Iraq, although casualties in Anbar could not be verified.

Since operations to liberate Mosul were launched in October 2016, civilian casualties overall have fallen significantly across the country. UNAMI recorded 1120 deaths in October 2016 – sixteen times higher than last month’s count. Iraq declared victory against Daesh on December 9th, after the last remaining border towns and desert regions in Anbar province were captured by Iraqi Security Forces and Hashd al-Shaabi. Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city and self-declared capital of Daesh’s so-called caliphate was officially liberated in July 2017.

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The Remarkable Resilience of the Prime Minister of Iraq

Jack Watling writes for The Atlantic:

For the past three years, Iraq has been held together by one common goal: the defeat of the Islamic State. In pursuit of this objective, the United States provided air support to Iranian proxies; Baghdad made concessions to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over disputed oil exports; and political parties contained protests against rampant corruption to preserve a sense of unity. This balancing of tensions, a consensus of sorts, saved Iraq. Then, on December 9, Haider al-Abadi, the country’s prime minister, gave a televised address in which he declared “final victory” over ISIS—effectively ending the consensus. Now, the question is whether he can tackle the myriad challenges rushing to greet him.

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Drug use, sales soar in Iraq’s Basra amid nationwide spike

Sinan Salaheddin writes for AP:

The rows of self-harm scars that course upward on the teenager’s forearms from her wrists nearly to her elbows are reminders of dark times.

At age seven, the now 19-year-old was diagnosed with sickle-cell anemia, a hereditary disease that comes with painful symptoms, including inflammation of the hands and feet and frequent infections. She became a regular visitor to a hospital where she was given Tramadol, an opioid medication that brought some relief.

Eventually, though, she began obtaining the medication even when there was no pain.

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Islamic State Returns to Guerrilla Warfare in Iraq and Syria

Raja Abdulrahim and Isabel Coles report for The Wall Street Journal:

Despite Syrian and Iraqi claims of victory over Islamic State, thousands of militants still holed up in both countries have mounted a number of recent guerrilla-style attacks on civilians and military forces, according to the U.S.-led coalition fighting the extremist group and others.

The fighters, hiding in isolated desert or mountain regions or among civilian populations in the neighboring countries, are stepping up hit-and-run style attacks now that they have lost much of the territory they seized several years ago, according to coalition officials, local activists and other experts.

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Crossing the river a major challenge in Iraq’s Mosul

AFP reports:

It used to take Ahmad Meyssar just a few minutes to reach his university across a bridge over the river Tigris in Iraq’s Mosul. But now — with whole districts still devastated some five months after Daesh was forced out — the journey takes him over two hours as most of the vital links between the two halves of the city remain in ruins.

Across the Nineveh region where Iraq’s second-largest city is located, some “90 percent” of the 70 bridges have been totally or partially destroyed, said Marwan Abderrazaq from the local roads department.

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A ‘martyr’ sniper becomes a hero to Iraq’s Shiites

Hamza Hendawi and Sinan Salaheddin write for AP:

Ali Jayad al-Salhi, a veteran sniper in an Iraqi militia, was killed in fighting with the Islamic State group earlier this year. He was then vaulted into legend, virtually becoming a new saint for the Shiite community.

Posters of al-Salhi adorn storefronts, homes and car windows in his home city of Basra and other Shiite areas. One bakery even sells cakes with his face. Poems praise his valor and piety. His rifle, with which he's said to have killed nearly 400 IS militants, is now in a museum in the holiest Shiite city, Karbala.

The fervor surrounding him points to the near messianic mystique that has grown up around Iraq's Shiite militias in tandem with their increasing political and military might after they helped defeat the Islamic State group. Known as the "Popular Mobilization Forces" or "Hashed" in Arabic, the militias — many of them backed by Iran — have emerged from the war with an image among Iraq's Shiite majority as virtually a holy force. The popular aura further buttresses the Hashed as it stands poised to play a major role in post-IS Iraq.

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Thousands remain missing after Iraq’s victories against IS

Susannah George writes for AP:

In 2014, Abdulrahman Saad was taken from his home in Mosul by Islamic State fighters, leaving his family in limbo.

They asked IS security offices and judges: Where is our husband and father? No answer. When the operation to retake Mosul began, they heard he was being held in the western part of the city, with hundreds of other prisoners. But when the area was liberated, they found no trace of Saad, the 59-year-old owner of a wholesale food store.

In their misery, they have company. Since Mosul was declared liberated in July, residents have submitted more than 3,000 missing-persons reports to Nineveh’s provincial council, according to council member Ali Khoudier. Most of them are men or teenage boys. Some were arrested by IS during the group’s extremist rule; others were detained by Iraqi forces on suspicion of extremist ties.

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From fighting ‘Islamic State’ to rotting in Iraqi jail

Karlos Zurutuza and Ferrán Barber write for Deutsche Welle:

On a blank sheet of paper, Marcos sketches the plan of the Kurdish prison where he spent 95 days in captivity.

"Just picture more than a hundred people inside a 65-square-meter [700 square foot] cell! We had to lie on our sides against each other to sleep, or even remain seated," the 47-year-old Spaniard told DW from his home in Rabanales, a village in northwestern Spain.

Marcos, whose codename was "Dr. Delil," was one of three Spaniards imprisoned last August in the Irbil General Security Directorate, a huge compound in the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan (KRG). He had served as a paramedic in the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a Yazidi armed group set up to protect this minority against radical Islamists, namely the "Islamic State" (IS) group.

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The Men Who Rescue Mosul’s Dead

John Beck writes for GQ:

The only firefighters in West Mosul, Iraq, switched on the siren as they drove a battered red truck through the ruins of their city. It was the morning of April 16, and they led a small convoy along roads gouged by bombs and partially blocked by collapsed buildings. The fighting was finished in this neighborhood, and the only other vehicles around were mangled wrecks. But the siren was an old habit, and it felt good to be back at work.

The firefighters, members of what is known in Iraq as the Civil Defense, parked by a colossal crater, and their chief, 47-year-old Colonel Rabie Ibrahim Hassan, started out on foot up an unpaved side street. Skinny, square-jawed Mohammed Shabaan hurried after him, clutching a small notebook. Around a dozen other men followed, guiding a crane and frontloader almost too large to fit between the buildings.

It had rained for weeks, but the day broke dry and hot and the now-still air smelled of corpses. The men pulled cheap surgical masks or respirators over their faces as they walked. They stopped in front of a heap of concrete and metal that had once been a pink two-story house. The background of gunfire and thud of mortar shells was louder here, as Iraqi forces clawed back ground from ISIS after an almost three-year occupation. Nobody seemed to notice the noise; it had been that way for months.

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Few ready to pay to rebuild Iraq after Islamic State defeat

Susannah George and Lori Hinnant write for AP:

For nearly 2½ miles along the western bank of the Tigris River, hardly a single building is intact. The warren of narrow streets of Mosul’s Old City is a crumpled landscape of broken concrete and metal. Every acre is weighed down by more than 3,000 tons of rubble, much of it laced with explosives and unexploded ordnance.

It will take years to haul away the wreckage, and this is just one corner of the destruction. The Iraqi military and U.S.-led coalition succeeded in uprooting the Islamic State group across the country, but the cost of victory is nearly incalculable.

Three years of war devastated much of northern and western Iraq. Baghdad estimates $100 billion is needed nationwide to rebuild. Local leaders in Mosul, the biggest city held by IS, say that amount is needed to rehabilitate their city alone.

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