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

Bloody scenes of life under IS haunt Mosul returnees

Raya Jalabi writes for Reuters:

For residents of the Old City, returning to Mosul is an exercise in trying to forget.

Its streets bear the scars of the horrors they survived – either living under Islamic State’s (IS) draconian rule or during nine months of brutal fighting, as the U.S.-led coalition battled to recapture the city from the jihadists.

“This corner is where Daesh whipped my sons for talking out of turn,” said Um Abdullah, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State, walking around the neighborhood she returned to in January. “And this corner is where they killed my father for trying to stop them.”

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39 Indians kidnapped by Islamic State in Iraq were killed, officials say

Shashank Bengali and Parth M.N. report for LA Times:

India said Tuesday that 39 of its citizens who were abducted by Islamic State militants had been found dead in northern Iraq, ending a four-year mystery that had gripped the South Asian nation.

India's foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, told Parliament that Iraqi authorities found 39 bodies buried under a mound near a village northeast of Mosul, the city that Iraqi forces freed from Islamic State control last July.

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Iraqi enthusiasts search for relics of royal past

AFP reports:

At the heart of a Baghdad flea market, nostalgia for Iraq's royal past is on full display as collectors and investors gather to buy relics from a bygone era.

Inside the Moudallal cafe, Arabic for "pampered", a hundred men from across the country carefully follow the auction of momentos from the nearly four decades of monarchic rule that ended with a bloody coup in 1958.

With a booming voice, the towering man who has worked in the covered market since 1992 offers his goods up for to the highest bidder.

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The US legacy in Iraq: violence, sectarianism – and elections

Campbell MacDiarmid writes for Al Jazeera:

After 15 years of violence, insecurity and sectarianism following the US invasion of Iraq, finding cause for optimism can be a fool's errand for Iraqi leaders.

This week marks the 15-year anniversary of the start of the US invasion of Iraq, ostensibly to free Iraqis from tyranny and oppression. What came next is well known: With the toppling of dictator Saddam Hussein, the US unleashed a storm of killing and division that persists to this day.

Iraqi leaders insist the country is in the best state it's been in since the invasion, even if ordinary Iraqis remain sceptical. Iraqi leaders point to the military defeat of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and national elections scheduled for May as reasons to be hopeful. Elections running smoothly, leaders say, will indicate there was at least one positive legacy to the US invasion - the successful introduction of democracy.

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15 Years After Invading Iraq: Winning the War, But Still Fighting for Peace

The Cipher Brief reports:

Monday marks 15 years since President George W. Bush announced the start of the Iraq war, followed by a ‘decapitation’ air strike on Baghdad meant to target Saddam Hussein. After a 48-hour deadline for Saddam to leave Iraq expired, ground troops from the U.S., UK, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq from Kuwait, launching a war that lasted from 2003 to 2011.

The Cipher Brief asked its experts in the intelligence, diplomatic and military to assess the war’s impact. Their conversations are adapted for print below.

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Iraq’s Yazidis return to a healthcare crisis

Tom Westcott writes for IRIN:

Sinjar, in northeast Iraq, made headlines for the 2014 massacre, enslavement, and displacement of its Yazidi people by militants from the so-called Islamic State. Thousands have since returned to the shattered town, but they are struggling with a lack of basic services, especially medical care.

Patients queue in a dingy corridor in what is left of Sinjar General Hospital to see 27-year-old Hussein Rashu, who was until recently its sole doctor. Hundreds of Yazidis seek treatment here every week, many suffering from complaints induced by ongoing shortages of food, clean drinking water, electricity and heating, and from living in makeshift accommodations.

“I see everyone – men, women, and children – and deal with all [sorts of] cases because there’s no one else,” explained Doctor Rashu, who qualified in 2014 and can offer only the most basic diagnoses and prescriptions.

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U.S. Military Helicopter Crashes In Iraq, Killing 7 People

David Welna and Scott Neuman report for NPR:

A U.S. military helicopter crashed after hitting a power line in Iraq's western Anbar province, killing all seven personnel aboard, the Pentagon said Friday.

Officials said the crash of the HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter occurred Thursday afternoon near the town of Qaim.

"All personnel aboard were killed in the crash," Brig. Gen. Jonathan P. Braga, director of operations, Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve, said in a statement.

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ISIL sleeper cells mounting attacks in northern Iraq

Mohammed Rasool and Campbell MacDiarmid write for The National:

ISIL has carried out a series of deadly attacks in northern Iraq that are being attributed to the group's use of sleeper cells in an offensive that could disrupt the country's upcoming elections.

The violence - at least 25 civilians and government fighters have been killed since Sunday - has been centred around Kirkuk province, with the insurgents boldly established checkpoints on the main road to Baghdad.

The uptick in attacks indicate that despite no longer controlling large swathes of territory, ISIL is far from a spent force in Iraq, undermining the government's claim that the group has been defeated.

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Mattis Accuses Iran of Using Money to Sway Iraq’s Elections

AP reports:

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Thursday accused Iran of funneling money into Iraq to sway the outcome of its elections in May, calling it part of a broader pattern of destabilizing Iranian actions across the Middle East.

Mr. Mattis declined to say what outcome Iran was aiming for in Iraq, but he said it was sending “not an insignificant amount of money” to the country to sway votes. He mentioned no dollar amounts.

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Blood, bullets and contraband vodka: female artists on life in Baghdad after the US invasion

Bidisha writes for The Guardian:

Irada al-Jabbouri remembers Baghdad at the height of the sectarian violence. “It was like a ghost town, under curfew, its streets almost empty by 4pm,” recalls the Iraqi novelist and women’s rights activist. “Day and night were organised according to a mysterious schedule of when car bombs might go off, or mortars or improvised explosive devices or kidnappings. More than once, I escaped from snipers’ bullets passing in front of me. Once, US soldiers went mad and started firing at the houses in my neighbourhood after an explosive device had gone off. All the windows in our house were shattered; the shards of glass were like shrapnel.

Jabbouri had been unable to write fiction since the US tanks rolled in in 2003. “It was like a rent in my soul, a bleeding,” she tells me. “We deserved better than the dictator [Saddam Hussein] and better than the invasion.” But she could record her day-to-day life. Her journal notes now form part of the script of Another Day in Baghdad, a movie in the early stages of filming.

Everyone associated with the film, including the Iraqi actors who auditioned in 2014 and 2016, had their own experiences to add to the story. “They were people who had dug their heels in and stayed, but there had been one thing that was the straw that broke them,” says the film’s director, Maysoon Pachachi, born in Iraq but now living in London. “Someone gets kidnapped and his vocal cords are cut; one woman was from a minority group and they burned her sister in front of her; a guy had three shops taken over by the mafia, his son was kidnapped and died as a result of torture using drills. I spoke to a teenage girl about seeing her first corpse on her way to school, with its eyeball hanging out.

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