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

Mosul residents: ‘We were the masters of the world’

Mariya Petkova writes for Al Jazeera:

Amid the rubble and devastation of the old city in west Mosul, it was difficult to imagine that Bulgaria would be the one thing local people would want to talk about the most.

Communist Bulgaria seemed to be remembered fondly by the few people (all middle-aged Muslim men) I could find to talk to in the empty streets of al-Sa'aa neighbourhood.

"I went to Bulgaria in the 1980s. It was very beautiful and cheap," Faris Ibrahim told me. He had just re-opened his small shop, spending his own money to repair the damage that the fighting had caused last year.

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Baghdad tries to stop New York sale of 3,000-year-old artifact

Rudaw reports:

The Iraqi government is in contact with New York authorities about a piece of Iraqi history that will go up for auction next week.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has prepared a report indicating that the 3,000-year-old Assyrian relief belongs to Iraq and “is under the protection of Iraqi Antiquities Law,” ministry spokesperson Ahmed Mahjoob stated.

Baghdad’s embassy in Washington is following up on the case with the New York prosecutor and the US government, he added.

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Iraq will prioritise own interests regarding Iran sanctions – new PM

Ahmed Aboulenein reports for Reuters:

Iraq will prioritise its own interests and independence when it comes to helping the United States enforce sanctions against Iran, new Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Thursday.

President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from a 2015 international nuclear accord with Tehran in May and reimpose sanctions has put Abdul Mahdi's incoming government in a difficult position, since Iraq's economy is closely intertwined with neighbouring Iran's.

"We want to secure Iraq from any interference in issues, affairs of other countries, whether it's a neighbouring country or it's any other country in the world," Abdul Mahdi told a news conference in Baghdad.

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US Military: IS Still Poses Threat in Iraq, Syria

Sirwan Kajjo writes for Voice of America:

Despite the anti-Islamic State campaign being waged in both Iraq and Syria, the terror group can still attack coalition forces and their local partners in both countries, Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said.

“We are seeing small pockets of ISIS still in areas like Kirkuk and Anbar provinces,” Ryan told VOA in an interview, using an acronym for the terror group. “They are trying to disrupt civilian services, like water and electricity, to try to get the people against the government.”

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Iraq Is Tempting Fate by Punishing Women

Sophia Jones and Christina Asquith write for Foreign Policy:

The courtroom was silent—all eyes were on a woman, a Turkish schoolteacher in her early twenties, who stood in a wooden cage in the center of the room. Her husband, killed in an airstrike, was an accused member of the Islamic State. She was one of the hundreds of foreign women who crossed illegally into Iraq and Syria and would become known as the “ISIS brides.” And today was her moment of reckoning.

It wasn’t clear, however, whether she understood that. She had only a court-appointed translator and public defender, neither of whom offered a proper translation or defense. When the judge asked if she pleaded guilty or innocent to illegally crossing into Iraq—at no point did they ask if she joined or supported the Islamic State—she seemed unsure what to say.

Over the past three years, U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have captured, killed, and detained thousands of Iraqis and foreigners with alleged Islamic State ties, ultimately driving the militant group and its predominantly male ranks from power in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in July 2017. But left behind are the thousands of women married to or associated with the fighters, their children, and a burning ethical question: What should be done with them? We know historically that women often lose agency during wartime, particularly in patriarchal societies where they already lack freedom of choice and movement. Are these women victims themselves, forced into life under militant rule, or perpetrators of and partners in violence who should be held accountable for violence that tore apart Iraq?

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Exclusive: Iraq PM’s draft government programme focuses on combating corruption

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq's Prime Minister designate Adel Abdul Mahdi is expected to present his new cabinet to parliament for approval on Wednesday.

A draft copy of Mr Abdul Mahdi's four-year government programme obtained by The National says the new cabinet will focus on issues such as corruption, Basra's water crisis, reconstruction and economic development.

Mr Abdul Mahdi is expected to present his draft copy for parliament approval. If he fails to convince lawmakers another candidate could be chosen for the top post.

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Why is oil-rich Kirkuk so poor?

Mariya Petkova writes for Al Jazeera:

On the way from Erbil to Kirkuk, it starts smelling of oil even before one gets near the oil-rich Iraqi city. Smoke can be seen rising from the white chimneys of small oil refineries on each side of the highway, while heavy oil trucks line up at checkpoints separating Kirkuk province from the Kurdish semi-autonomous region.

Kirkuk's complicated politics become clear at the entrance to the city, where a large statue of a Peshmerga fighter in traditional Kurdish dress waves an Iraqi flag.

When it was unveiled in early 2017, the statue held the KRG flag: red, white, green and a sun in the middle. Two and a half years earlier the KRG - which claims the ethnically mixed Kirkuk as historically Kurdish territory - took control of the city after dispatching its Peshmerga forces to prevent Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) from capturing it.

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Car bomb kills six, wounds 30 near Iraq’s Mosul

Reuters reports:

At least six people were killed, including two soldiers, and 30 wounded in a car bomb blast in the northern Iraqi town of Qayyara on Tuesday, police and medical sources said.

A vehicle packed with explosives was parked near a restaurant and a crowded market area in Qayyara, south of the city of Mosul, police said. Health officials and police had earlier put the death toll at four but said it could rise as some of the wounded were in a critical in condition.

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The Eclipse of Sectarianism

Hassan Hassan writes for The Atlantic:

The sectarian fervor widely associated with the Middle East has recent roots. A chain of political and religious upheavals, beginning in 1979, ignited and fueled sectarian hatred and added an ethnic bent to it. The results were catastrophic: Sectarianism caused deep societal fissures and cost hundreds of thousands of lives over a sustained period of time.

Almost exactly 40 years after this surge in sectarianism began, however, we might finally be witnessing its ebb. Sectarianism today is arguably at a recent low, and a reversal of the main causes that catalyzed and intensified it suggests that the demobilization might continue.

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Traditional Arts Festival celebrates colorful Kurdistan

Rudaw reports:

A multicultural festival is taking place in downtown Erbil this week celebrating the traditional arts of Erbil, Baghdad, Sulaimani, Duhok, Basra, and Rojava.

Hiwa Suad, head of the Erbil Artists Syndicate, says the event demonstrates the spirit of solidarity among different ethnic groups living in the Region.

“We understand how valuable such events are, so we are working to develop them in order to introduce our nation to other nations’ cultures,” Suad said.

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