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

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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Global Terrorism Index 2017

Institute for Economics and Peace reports:

This is the fifth edition of the Global Terrorism Index (GTI). The report provides a comprehensive summary of the key global trends and patterns in terrorism over the last 17 years in covering the period from the beginning of 2000 to the end of 2016.

The GTI is produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) and is based on data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). Data for the GTD is collected and collated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START); a Department of Homeland Security Centre of Excellence led by the University of Maryland. The GTD is considered to be the most comprehensive global dataset on terrorist activity and has now codified over 170,000 terrorist incidents.

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Climate Change and Water Woes Drove ISIS Recruiting in Iraq

Peter Schwartzstein writes for National Geographic:

It was a few weeks after the rains failed in the winter of 2009 that residents of Shirqat first noticed the strange bearded men.

Circling like vultures among the stalls of the town’s fertilizer market in Iraq’s northern Salahaddin governorate, they’d arrow in on the most shabbily dressed farmers, and tempt them with promises of easy riches. “Join us, and you’ll never have to worry about feeding your family,” Saleh Mohammed Al-Jabouri, a local tribal sheikh, remembers one recruiter saying.

With every flood or bout of extreme heat or cold, the jihadists would reappear, often supplementing their sales pitches with gifts. When a particularly vicious drought struck in 2010, the fifth in seven years, they doled out food baskets. When fierce winds eviscerated hundreds of eggplant fields near Kirkuk in the spring of 2012, they distributed cash. As farming communities limped from one debilitating crisis to another, the recruiters—all members of what soon became the Islamic State—began to see a return on their investment.

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‘New roadblocks’ emerge in Iraq after Islamic State defeat: aid expert

Raya Jalabi writes for Reuters:

The war against Islamic State in Iraq may soon be over but providing humanitarian aid to Iraqis is becoming more difficult as new political and cultural divides open up, the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said.

Jan Egeland also warned that members of the international coalition which helped Baghdad in its three-year campaign against Islamic State could now drastically reduce their humanitarian budget for Iraq following the militants’ defeat.

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