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

Saudi Oil Minister Talks of Strengthening Ties on Iraq Visit

AP reports:

In the latest sign of improving relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the kingdom's oil minister attended an energy conference in the southern Iraqi port city of Basra on Tuesday.

Khalid al-Falih said Saudi Arabia wants to expand investment projects in Iraq to include energy, manufacturing and natural resources.

"These are all considered important steps in bringing Iraq back to the Arab fold as well as to open Iraqi markets for international goods," al-Falih said. "We see our cooperation and coordination as very strategic and crucial for both of our countries. It doubles our success, growth and prosperity, again and again."

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Islamic State’s ‘caliphate’ has been toppled in Iraq and Syria. Why isn’t anyone celebrating?

Tamer El-Ghobashy, Mustafa Salim, and Louisa Loveluck write for The Washington Post:

Every day for more than three years, the U.S.-led coalition bombed Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, for a total of nearly 30,000 strikes. But on Nov. 26, not a single airstrike was launched.

Just a week earlier, Iraq’s military had won back the last sliver of territory controlled by the militants. The Pentagon has now announced that 400 Marines deployed to Syria to fight them will be returning home.

Those milestones appear to mark the Islamic State’s defeat, with the end of its self-declared caliphate. But the battle isn’t over.

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Iraq: Flawed Prosecution of ISIS Suspects

Human Rights Watch reports:

The Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) are conducting thousands of trials of Islamic State suspects without a strategy to prioritize the worst abuses under Iraqi and international law, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The haphazard approach and rampant due process violations are likely to deny justice to the victims of the worst abuses during ISIS control of parts of Iraq.

The 76-page report, “Flawed Justice: Accountability for ISIS Crimes in Iraq,” examines the screening, detention, investigation, and prosecution of some of the thousands of Islamic State (also known as ISIS) suspects in Iraq. Human Rights Watch found serious legal shortcomings that undermine the efforts to bring ISIS suspects to justice. Most significantly, there is no national strategy to ensure the credible prosecution of those responsible for the most serious crimes. The broad prosecution under terrorism law of all those affiliated with ISIS in any way, no matter how minimal, could impede future community reconciliation and reintegration, and clog up Iraqi courts and prisons for decades.

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The Battle against Islamic State

Reuters reports:

It was an awkward coalition riven by political and sectarian differences, facing an elusive, fanatical enemy dug into an urban maze of narrow streets and alleyways. So, could Iraq’s government really deliver on its vow to vanquish Islamic State?

In the end, the army, Shi‘ite Muslim paramilitaries and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters mustered rare unity to end Islamic State’s reign of terror in Iraq’s second city Mosul, seat of the ultra-hardline Sunni insurgents’ “caliphate”.

But even with supportive U.S. air strikes, Baghdad’s triumph came at a devastating cost for the once-vibrant, multicultural city in northern Iraq and the surrounding region.

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CIA director warns Iranian general on Iraq

Deb Riechmann writes for AP:

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Saturday that he sent a letter to a top Iranian military official warning him that the United States would hold Tehran accountable for any attacks it conducted on American interests in Iraq.

Pompeo, who has voiced staunch opposition to Iran, said he sent the letter to Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and elite Quds Force, but the general didn’t read it.

“I sent a note. I sent it because he had indicated that forces under his control might in fact threaten U.S. interests in Iraq,” Pompeo said at a defense forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, California. “He refused to open the letter — didn’t break my heart to be honest with you.”

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Iraq after ISIL: ‘It was like a ghost town’

Samira Shackle writes for Al Jazeera:

Linda Adib Younis' house in the Iraqi town of Telskof has high ceilings, with shelves all the way to the top stacked with trinkets - cuddly toys, ornate porcelain figures, vases.

There were even more before she was displaced by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in 2014.

Life changed for Younis, along with the other 800 or so families living in Telskof, in August 2014, when ISIL seized the town. The armed group subsequently swept through the surrounding province of Nineveh, viciously killing and abducting Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims. Younis and her family fled to the neighbouring Kurdish city of Dohuk.

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France’s Macron calls on Iraq to dismantle all militias

Michel Rose and Ahmed Aboulenein write for Reuters:

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday called on Iraq to dismantle all militias, including the government-sanctioned, Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), a rare public call to do so by a major Western leader.

Macron’s call, which followed a meeting with Iraqi Kurdish leaders in Paris, underscores the tough balancing act Baghdad has to perform between its allies in the war on Islamic State, Iran and Western powers, which do not see eye to eye.

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Mosul hospital rebuilt from ruins of battle

Sacha Myers writes for Doctors Without Borders:

After the battle to retake Iraq's second city from Islamic State militants, Al Khansaa Pediatrics Teaching Hospital in eastern Mosul was in ruins, a burnt skeleton of wood and metal was all that remained.

For the hundreds of thousands of returning residents who had fled the fighting, treatment for war wounds and malnutrition, from living for months on rations, was vital.

Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, ensured those who needed help had somewhere to go by putting one of Mosul's largest hospitals back into action.

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Hezbollah emerges a winner from Mideast turmoil, alarming foes

Laila Bassam and Tom Perry write for Reuters:

When Iran declared victory over Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, it hailed the “strong and pivotal” role played by Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.

The praise, contained in a top general’s letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader in November, confirmed Hezbollan’s pre-eminence among Shi‘ite Muslim regional groups backed by Tehran that are helping the Islamic Republic exert influence in the Middle East.

Hezbollah has emerged as a big winner in the turmoil that has swept the Arab world since the uprisings of 2011 that toppled governments in several countries. It has fought in Syria and Iraq, trained other groups in those countries and inspired other forces such as Iran-allied Houthis waging a war in Yemen.

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Marathon draws thousands in Iraq’s devastated Mosul

AFP reports:

More than 4,000 runners took part Thursday in a "peace marathon" in  Mosul to raise funds to rebuild the war-ravaged western district of Iraq's second city.

Government forces declared victory in July in their battle to oust the Islamic State group from Mosul, which the jihadists had seized in a lightning 2014 offensive.

Iraqi forces first recaptured east Mosul and in February launched a months-long battle for the densely-populated western sector of a city which is divided by the Tigris River.

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