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

Why Some Iraqi Officials Want Elections Delayed

Hamzeh Hadad writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

The Iraqi cabinet and parliament have confirmed that federal and provincial elections will be held on May 15, 2018 despite the call to postpone elections from various political leaders. Provincial elections have usually been held a year prior to the federal election but due to logistical, economic and political reasons, the provincial elections were postponed a year to coincide with the federal election. This was the first time outside the Kurdistan Region that elections were postponed in the new Iraq, and despite the dangerous precedent it could set, Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi has ensured they would not be postponed any further. Abadi reminded those pushing for postponement that Iraq has held elections in tougher times and so there would be no excuse now that the country is rid of Da’ish to hold the elections within the mandate set out for the federal election.

Despite Abadi’s insistence to hold elections within the constitutional mandate set out for parliament, there are many political parties that are pushing for the elections to be postponed. Iraq’s former parliament speaker and currently one of three Vice Presidents, Osama Al-Nujaifi, reiterated this desire in his recent visit to Washington. Nujaifi claimed: “It is unreasonable to run the elections under the shadow of the spread of all these weapons or with the displacement of millions of people … This will distort these elections.” These concerns may be sound but come under the disguise of fear of losing significant political support due the lack of popularity amongst Nujaifi’s political party in his home province of Nineveh. Other political parties that share the same sentiment have the same fear of unpopularity after their failures to deliver services and leadership on the provincial level.

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Kurds, Warning of Hostilities in Iraq, Appeal for a U.S. Envoy

Ben Kesling writes for The Wall Street Journal:

The Iraqi Kurdish government has asked the U.S. to appoint a special envoy to mediate a deepening and potentially dangerous dispute between the central government in Baghdad and the semiautonomous Kurdish region, a top Kurdish official said Monday.

Falah Mustafa Bakir, the head of foreign relations for Iraqi Kurdistan, told The Wall Street Journal that he has approached U.S. officials with a request for the Americans to do more to address friction between Baghdad and the Kurdish government in Erbil.

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Social Media Field Manual: The Iraqi Ministry of Defense Learned to Take the War to Facebook

Caroline Bechtel writes for Small Wars Journal:

Since the Islamic State (ISIS) swept through northern Iraq in the summer of 2014, many observers have examined efforts by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Security Forces (ISF) to learn and adapt. Such conversations typically revolve around battlefield inputs and effects—the number of recruits, training programs, soldier skills, and territorial gains--and have generally concluded that while the ISF has improved in terms of combat lethality, the force must work still to professionalize. Few, however, have discussed the Iraqi government’s efforts to adapt in the digital domain. But the Iraqi MoD’s presence on social media--and Facebook in particular--has been a crucial element of its military learning process since 2014. This adaptation demonstrates that the MoD has co-opted one of its enemy’s most valuable weapons: social media.

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Families of Mosul extremists sent to Baghdad ‘for expulsion’

AFP reports:

About 300 wives and children of foreign extremists captured in Mosul have been transferred from northern Iraq to Baghdad "for expulsion to their home countries", an official told AFP on Monday.

"This is the second wave of expulsions, and two or three more will follow," said Nureddin Qablan, deputy head of the Nineveh provincial council.

"A total of more than 1,200 members of jihadists' families will be transferred" from Tel Keif detention centre north of Mosul to a similar facility in the capital, Mr Qablan said.

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Women’s rights are under threat in Iraq

Zahra Ali writes for The Washington Post:

Earlier this month, Iraq’s parliament received amendments to its constitution that — if approved — will fundamentally change Iraqi women’s legal rights. The amendments include sectarian religious laws — breaking with the current law based on Sunni and Shiite jurisprudence.

The amendments apply to Iraq’s personal status code, which is a legal framework addressing family law that gathers most of women’s legal rights in matters of marriage, divorce, child custody, alimony or inheritance. One of the proposed amendments could allow child marriages of girls at age nine.

If approved, the amendments will affect marriage inside the civil court that provides legal protection for women from polygamy and different forms of abuse. It also weakens the power of the state appointed judge in granting power to sectarian religious authorities instead of a cross-sectarian reading of the law that decides whether cross-sectarian marriages are possible.

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Iraq’s Surprise: The Persistence of Democracy

Yaroslav Trofimov writes for The Wall Street Journal:

In the years since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, American promises of turning the country into a model democracy, spreading freedom across the Middle East, have often seemed like cruel mockery. By the time the U.S. withdrew in 2011, Iraq had been ravaged by bloody insurgencies and sectarian massacres that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and more than 4,500 American troops. In 2014, Iraq almost collapsed in the face of a blitzkrieg by Islamic State, as the extremist group reached the outskirts of Baghdad. There weren’t many takers in the region for the Iraqi model.

Today Iraq’s prospects are looking brighter. A resurgent central government has defeated Islamic State, thanks in part to renewed American military involvement, and has taken back lands lost to the country’s Kurdistan autonomous region since 2003. And Iraq’s improbable political experiment has endured. In an increasingly repressive and authoritarian part of the world, this nation of 40 million people stands apart as a rare—though still deeply flawed—democracy. Iraq’s elected leaders insist that, despite their country’s many travails, it still has something to teach the rest of the Middle East.

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Crimes of the Caliphate: Iraqi Shepherd Bears Witness to ISIS Massacre

Margaret Coker writes for The New York Times:

A shepherd heard the gunshots and the screaming.

As Islamic State fighters executed at least 60 people at a remote military base in northern Iraq one day last year, he cowered in his home nearby, terrified. When it was safe to go out, he found piles of bodies; many of them he recognized as his neighbors. He buried them himself.

“They were slaughtering people for all kinds of reasons, those caught using the internet, those suspected of being witches,” the shepherd, Saad al-Omar, said at the site of a mass grave here on Tuesday. “Here, I saw those victims, my neighbors. I saw bodies of mothers with their children. They had been shot. They had been burned. They were all dead.”

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Iraqi forces retake the country’s last Islamic State-held town

AP reports:

Iraqi forces backed by the U.S.-led coalition on Friday retook the last town in the country that was held by the Islamic State group, more than three years after the militants stormed nearly a third of Iraqi territory, the Defense Ministry's spokesman said.

At dawn, Iraqi military units and local tribal fighters pushed into the western neighborhoods of Rawah in western Anbar province and, after just five hours of fighting, they retook the town, according to Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool.

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The Uncounted

Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal write for The New York Times:

American military planners go to great lengths to distinguish today’s precision strikes from the air raids of earlier wars, which were carried out with little or no regard for civilian casualties. They describe a target-selection process grounded in meticulously gathered intelligence, technological wizardry, carefully designed bureaucratic hurdles and extraordinary restraint. Intelligence analysts pass along proposed targets to “targeteers,” who study 3-D computer models as they calibrate the angle of attack. A team of lawyers evaluates the plan, and — if all goes well — the process concludes with a strike so precise that it can, in some cases, destroy a room full of enemy fighters and leave the rest of the house intact.

The coalition usually announces an airstrike within a few days of its completion. It also publishes a monthly report assessing allegations of civilian casualties. Those it deems credible are generally explained as unavoidable accidents — a civilian vehicle drives into the target area moments after a bomb is dropped, for example. The coalition reports that since August 2014, it has killed tens of thousands of ISIS fighters and, according to our tally of its monthly summaries, 466 civilians in Iraq.

Yet until we raised his case, Basim’s family was not among those counted. Mayada, Tuqa, Mohannad and Najib were four of an unknown number of Iraqi civilians whose deaths the coalition has placed in the “ISIS” column. Estimates from Airwars and other nongovernmental organizations suggest that the civilian death toll is much higher, but the coalition disputes such figures, arguing that they are based not on specific intelligence but local news reports and testimony gathered from afar. When the coalition notes a mission irregularity or receives an allegation, it conducts its own inquiry and publishes a sentence-long analysis of its findings. But no one knows how many Iraqis have simply gone uncounted.

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Baghdad in secret talks to resolve crisis with Kurds, says Iraq MP

Mina Aldroubi reports for The National:

Iraq's government has been holding secret talks with leaders from the Kurdish region to resolve the crisis triggered by its independence referendum, a member of Iraq's parliament said.

Kamel Al Zaydi, an MP from the State of Law coalition, said prime minister Haider Al Abadi had "established a secret committee headed by instrumental political figures to negotiate with the Kurds on the referendum crisis”.

“The negotiations are advancing rapidly and an announcement is going to be made,” Mr Al Zaydi told the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

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