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

The Perils of a Post-ISIS Middle East

Joshua A. Geltzer writes for The Atlantic:

As 2017 draws to a close, the mood among leading pundits on the U.S.-led campaign to dislodge the Islamic State from Iraq and Syria might seem justifiably upbeat, even jubilant. After all, the accomplishments in the campaign’s first three years are many: eliminating key ISIS leaders, clearing the group from its so-called “dual capitals” of Mosul and Raqqa, and reducing the territorial safe havens from which it can plot attacks. It’s with some justification that, on December 9, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS in Iraq.

But it would be naïve to toast to victory as the new year dawns. That’s not just because the last mile of defeating a terrorist group can be the hardest one, as the United States learned all too well from the lingering remnants of ISIS’s predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq. It’s also because regional challenges that Washington has suppressed by cultivating strategic ambiguity—deliberate vagueness in policy formulation that allows for different audiences to understand the same policy differently, thus allowing flexibility down the road—will become impossible to ignore and difficult to manage.

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Iraq: Yezidi Fighters Allegedly Execute Civilians

Human Rights Watch reports:

Yezidi fighters in Iraq allegedly forcibly disappeared and killed 52 civilians from the Imteywit tribe in June 2017, Human Rights Watch said today.

Relatives of victims told Human Rights Watch that on June 4, 2017, Yezidi forces detained and then apparently executed men, women, and children from eight Imteywit families who were fleeing fighting between the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) and Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) west of Mosul. Yezidi forces were also implicated in two other incidents of enforced disappearances of members of the Imteywit and Jahaysh tribes in late 2017.

“As the ground fighting against ISIS winds down in Iraq, state security forces need to turn their focus to preventing retaliation and upholding the rule of law,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Past atrocities against the Yezidis don’t give its armed forces a free pass to commit abuses against other groups, whatever their past.”

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How Sunnis’ post-ISIS crisis is leading some to a new Iraqi nationalism

Scott Peterson writes for The Christian Science Monitor:

While unbridled joy has greeted the defeat of the so-called Islamic State across Iraq, the wreckage left behind includes severe trauma to Iraq’s Arab Sunnis – leaving the minority community facing what some say is an existential crisis.

One metric by which to assess this is the numbers: Most of the 5 million displaced persons in Iraq are Sunnis. And most of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who were killed, raped, or kidnapped by ISIS jihadists are Sunnis. Nearly every city left in ruins by the fight to expel ISIS – from Fallujah and Ramadi to Mosul – is predominantly Sunni.

Another metric is psychological: The community’s failure has been so acute – succumbing to nearly four years of brutal ISIS rule, and even sometimes welcoming ISIS, at first – that Iraq’s Sunnis are reeling like they haven’t for a century.

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Kidnapped, Abandoned Children Turn Up At Mosul Orphanage As ISIS Battle Ends

Jane Arraf writes for NPR:

Hammoudi laughs and gurgles as a cooing caregiver picks him up from a crib. It's clear from the attention he is getting that he's the darling of the orphanage.

The orphanage in a residential neighborhood in Mosul currently holds 18 children under the age of 6. Wooden cribs are lined end to end along bare walls in one of the rooms. A bassinet with white netting holds a baby only a few weeks old. He was left in the street near a police station in Mosul and brought by security forces to the orphanage.

There are some children whose entire families were killed in the war against the self-declared Islamic State — many buried in the rubble of crowded west Mosul when houses collapsed in bombings, airstrikes or mortar attacks.

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Less than 1,000 IS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria, coalition says

Reuters reports:

Fewer than 1,000 Islamic State fighters remain in Iraq and Syria, the United States-led international coalition fighting the hardline Sunni militant group said on Wednesday, a third of the estimated figure only three weeks ago.

Iraq and Syria have both declared victory over Islamic State in recent weeks, after a year that saw the two countries’ armies, a range of foreign allies and various local forces drive the fighters out of all the towns and villages that once made up their self-proclaimed caliphate.

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Iraq year in review: the country may be free of ISIL but lies in ruins

Florian Neuhof writes for The National:

At the foot of the craggy ridge line that slashes across the plains of northern Iraq, the devastated town of Sinjar is slowly repopulating. Crammed into their battered old cars, families pull up to houses they left in haste more than over three years ago, and have not seen since. With a home to return to, they are the fortunate ones.

Many of their neighbours are not so lucky. Sinjar sparked an international outcry in August 2014, when ISIL stormed the town and the surrounding area to kill and enslave the local Yazidi population. In response, the US began its bombing campaign to curb and reverse the terrorist group's headlong advance against a crumbling Iraqi military. Air support by the US-led coalition allowed the Iraqis to beat back and ultimately defeat ISIL in a war culminating in the bloody nine-month battle for the city of Mosul, during which bombs flattened large swathes of the city.

Across Iraq, liberated towns, cities and villages have suffered a similar fate. Some, like Mosul or desert towns like Al Qaim near the Syrian border, have only recently been wrested from the extremists. Others, like Fallujah, retaken by the Iraqi military in the spring of 2015, still wait for essential services to be restored, and homes to be rebuilt.

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Iraq’s Mosul celebrates first post-IS Christmas

Mohammed Salim writes for AFP:

Hymns and cries of joy filled a church in Iraq's second city Mosul on Sunday as worshippers celebrated Christmas there for the first time in four years after the end of jihadist rule.

Mass opened with the Iraqi national anthem as women ululated, despite the modest decorations inside the church and the armoured cars and police outside.

"This is a sign that life is returning to Mosul," said wheelchair-bound Hossam Abud, 48, who returned earlier this month from exile in Iraqi Kurdistan.

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Judge Sides With ACLU, Ruling American Detainee In Iraq Has Right To Lawyer

Amy Held reports for NPR:

"Somewhere in Iraq, a United States citizen has been in the custody of the U.S. armed forces for over three months."

That is how a federal Judge on Saturday begins her ruling, describing the situation of a never-charged American classified as an enemy combatant, as she ordered the Pentagon provide the prisoner with "immediate" access to a lawyer.

The still-unnamed man was captured by the Syrian militia in mid-September and handed over to the U.S. military as a suspected member of the Islamic State.

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The men saving history from ISIS

Lesley Stahl reports for CBS News:

We have come across an unlikely band of brothers on the battlefield against terrorism. They are men of the cloth, a pair of padres, who go into harm's way to find and protect ancient religious books and manuscripts.

We joined them in a region of Iraq that was once Mesopotamia where human culture and learning really began. It's believed to be the birthplace of mathematics, writing and agriculture and recently, the scene of some of the fiercest battles in the U.S.-backed war against ISIS.

Father Columba, a Benedictine monk from Minnesota and Father Najeeb Michaeel, a Dominican friar from Iraq decided to partner up to rescue what old documents they could from places like this monastery, Mar Behnam, in Northern Iraq that goes back to the 4th century. It was occupied and defaced by ISIS.

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Mosul’s morgue men endured worst of Islamic State butchery

Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Maggie Michael write for AP:

The young man ended up on the morgue’s examining table in two parts.

The morgue in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul was where atrocity met bureaucracy, the processing point for the machine of butchery that the Islamic State group created across its territory in Iraq and Syria. Every day, the doctors and staff witnessed the worst of what the militants were capable of inflicting on a human being, constantly fearing they could be next.

Yet the morgue men of Mosul found ways large and small to defy their captors by honoring the dead as best they could.

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