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

Iraq faces tough battle against IS desert hideouts

AFP reports:

Iraqi forces said Monday they face a tough battle against the Islamic State group in deep gorges and other natural hideouts in the western desert along the Syrian border, their last bastion in Iraq.

“Our units have cleared 50 percent of the total area of the desert of around 29,000 square kilometres (11,000 sq miles). The first phase is over,” General Yahya Rassoul, spokesman of the Joint Operations Command, told AFP.

“Now our units will proceed to clearing the rest of the desert zones, including Wadi (valley) Hauran,” he said.

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Bombing in southeast Baghdad kills 11

Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports for AP:

Iraqi police and hospital officials say a bombing in southeast Baghdad has killed 11 people.

The officials say the attack late Monday night targeted a popular shopping district and left also 26 civilians wounded.

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Thousands more US military service members in Iraq and Syria than believed

Luis Martinez writes for ABC News:

Thousands more American troops are serving in Iraq and Syria than has been previously acknowledged by the Pentagon, a new report finds.

According to the Defense Manpower Data Center's quarterly report from September, there were 1,720 American troops in Syria -- three times as many as the 503 troops in Syria that U.S. military spokesmen have told reporters. The Pentagon's personnel agency issues quarterly reports about how many American troops are serving in individual states and overseas countries.

The same report showed there were 8,992 American troops in Iraq, almost 3,500 more than the official Department of Defense tally of 5,262.

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Iraqi Security Forces Pivot From Offensive Warfare To Counter Insurgency

J. Ramirez writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

On November 17th, 2017, the Iraqi Army’s 7th and 8th  Divisions crossed the Euphrates at 7:30 a.m. local time and stormed the town of Rawa in Western Anbar. The fighting would last roughly five hours and the liberation of the town would represent the erasure of the so-called Caliphate due to Rawa being the last urban stronghold under the control of ISIS since 2014. Freeing Rawa meant that the so-called Islamic State  had been defeated militarily in Iraq. With the bulk of the terrorist forces pulling back northwards towards Badia Ba’aj, a steppe that is roughly 22,000 km2 in size and stretches from just south of the town of Ba’aj in Ninawa province to parts of the Euphrates river in Western Anbar, it had become necessary to launch a follow-up operation to destroy the terrorists’ hideouts deep in the desert.

Many wonder what comes next. The security situation in Iraq has slowly improved in recent years, thanks to coordination between local law enforcement and military intelligence to facilitate the capture of weapons bound for ISIS sleepers as well as neutralizing attacks as quickly as possible before the group inflicts maximum casualties. In liberated areas, ISIS has already reverted to insurgent tactics meant to harass local forces, but they are unable to regain control of villages due to the quick responsiveness of local Popular Mobilization Units after they are contacted by local residents. Ultimately, counter insurgency operations will serve as an effective method of degrading ISIS capabilities to the point that they will no longer pose a threat in each province (Ninawa, Salah al-Din, Diyala, Anbar).

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Iraq launches operation to clear desert near Syria of Islamic State

Ahmed Rasheed writes for Reuters:

Iraqi forces launched an operation on Thursday to clear the desert bordering Syria of Islamic State in a final push to rid Iraq of the militant group, the military said.

Troops from the Iraqi army and mainly Shi‘ite paramilitaries known as Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) were taking part in the campaign against militants hiding in a large strip of border land, Iraqi military officials said.

“The objective behind the operation is to prevent remaining Daesh groups from melting into the desert region and using it as a base for future attacks,” said army colonel Salah Kareem, referring to Islamic State by an Arabic acronym.

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UN urges Iraq to probe troop violations during fight with IS

Sinan Salaheddin writes for AP:

A top United Nations official Thursday called on the Iraqi government to speed up investigations into allegations of human rights violations committed by security forces during the fight against the Islamic State group and to make the results of those probes public.

Concluding an official visit to Iraq, Agnes Callamard, the U.N.'s special investigator on extra-judicial executions, stressed to the Iraqi officials on "the importance of translating the military defeat over ISIS into victories for accountability and over impunity." ISIS is another acronym for IS.

Callamard told reporters in Baghdad that Iraq's new "transition phase" presents "both opportunities and challenges" and that the government should "respond effectively and impartially to allegations of violations in order to build and strengthen confidence."

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Iraqi militia indicates will hand heavy guns to army after Islamic State quashed

Ahmed Aboulenein writes for Reuters:

A prominent Iraqi militia indicated on Thursday it would give any heavy weapons it had to the military once Islamic State was defeated and rejected a proposed U.S. congressional bill designating it a terrorist group.

Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba, which has about 10,000 fighters, is one of the most important militias in Iraq. Though made up of Iraqis, it is loyal to Iran and is helping Tehran create a supply route through Iraq to Damascus.

The Nujaba fights under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a mostly Iranian-backed coalition of Shi‘ite militias that played a role in combating Islamic State.

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Iraq to resume payments of Gulf War reparations to Kuwait, said UN

The National reports:

Iraq has agreed to resume payments from its oil revenues to compensate fully the $4.6 billion (Dh16.9 billion) still owed to Kuwait for destruction of its oil fields and facilities during the 1990-91 Gulf War, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

Payments from the UN fund, which were suspended since October 2014 due to security and budgetary challenges faced by Iraq in its fight against ISIL, will begin with 0.5 percent of its oil proceeds in 2018 and escalate annually until the end of 2021, the UN Compensation Commission said.

"Based on oil price and export projections, this would result in payment in full of the outstanding claim award," the UNCC said in a statement issued in Geneva.

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On the Iraq border archaeological digs are a minefield – in every sense

Mary Shepperson writes for The Guardian:

Modern conflict archaeology, the study of 20th and 21st century conflicts, is a new and slightly uncomfortable discipline in the world of archaeology. It’s problematic in a number of ways. Firstly, very little of it involves what most people would recognise as archaeology – digging up cultural material from the ground for study. Most of the material legacies of modern conflicts remain above ground and embedded in current society, necessitating a more anthropological, interdisciplinary approach. Secondly, the time periods under study are often within living memory, and often remain highly contentious within the affected regions. This means that modern conflict archaeology can be a political minefield – as well as an actual minefield.

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Truck bomb in northern Iraq kills at least 23

Mustafa Mahmoud reports for Reuters:

At least 23 people were killed and 60 wounded when a suicide bomber set off a truck bomb near a crowded marketplace in the northern Iraqi town of Tuz Khurmatu, police and medical sources said on Tuesday.

An interior ministry spokesman said a “violent explosion” took place near a vegetable market in the town, south of Kirkuk, but did not immediately provide casualty figures.

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