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

Movenpick to open new hotel in Basra

Sarah Townsend reports for The National:

Movenpick Hotels & Resorts will open a new hotel in Basra in the first quarter of this year as it seeks to capitalise on the city’s status as Iraq’s economic capital.

“Basra is one of the Middle East’s fastest-growing economic centres, a major oil producer that is undergoing rapid infrastructure development,” said Olivier Chavy, president and chief executive of the Swiss hospitality group.

“Our upcoming property will cater to pent-up demand from the corporate sector, which contributes around 90 per cent of hotel demand in Basra due to the high volume of oil and gas and shipping companies based in this booming region of Iraq.”

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Children of Terror Left Behind in Iraq

Heather Murdock writes for Voice of America:

Both of Maya's parents were Islamic State suicide bombers. Her four siblings were among their victims.

Plump, smiling and younger than two years old, Maya may never know anything of her past. "Maya" is not her real name.

As authorities in Iraq sort out the children that IS left behind — their orphans, the orphans of their victims, abandoned children of sex slaves, and children of foreign fighters — aid workers say they want to shield the youngest ones from their painful beginnings.

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Iraq returning displaced civilians from camps to unsafe areas

Ahmed Aboulenein writes for Reuters:

Iraqi security forces are forcibly returning civilians from refugee camps to unsafe areas in the predominantly Sunni Anbar province, exposing them to death from booby-traps or acts of vigilantism, refugees and aid workers say.

Managing more than two million Iraqis displaced by the war against Islamic State is one of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s most daunting tasks. But critics say he is more interested in winning elections in May than alleviating the suffering of displaced Iraqis and returning them safely home.

Authorities are sending back people against their will, refugees and aid workers say, to ensure that the election takes place on time. People must be in their area of origin to vote and if they do not get home, this could delay the election.

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Life After ISIS: One Sister Wants To Rebuild. The Other Can’t Wait To Leave

Jane Arraf writes for NPR:

Farah Khaled stands in front of the scorched and twisted steel beams of the destroyed Mosul University library. Red and green ribbons stand out against the blackened metal — remnants of a book drive Khaled and other students organized.

She and her sister, Raffal Khaled, 19, are both in their freshman year at Mosul University. Like many of the students, Farah is three years behind schedule.

The sisters were lucky in many ways — children of middle-class parents who lost neither their home nor family members during the reign of ISIS and the brutal fighting that liberated the city last year.

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UK ‘inadvertently helped neuter’ Middle East ally the Iraqi Kurds

Patrick Wintour writes for The Guardian:

Foreign Office ministers inadvertently helped neutralise the Iraqi Kurds, one of Britain’s most effective allies in efforts to limit Iranian influence in the Middle East, a former UK and Nato official has claimed.

The claims, which refer to the weeks in September and October 2017 when the Iraqi government moved against Kurdish militia after an independence referendum, are expected to be raised with the Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt at a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday in which the UK government will be asked to justify its assertion that Baghdad has recaptured disputed Kurd-held territory with “limited clashes and loss of life”.

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2018: Iraq’s Challenges Ahead

Muhammad al-Waeli writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

2017 was one of the most significant years in Iraq’s modern history. The significance is not only because of the victory against ISIS, preventing the division of the country, nor the complete removal of the UN sanctions against Iraq. It is more than all that put together. The significance comes from the fact that Iraq showed that it has the potential to overcome the challenges that threatened its existence, proving all the analysis and predictions about its end to be incorrect. It showed that if there is enough will, the impossible can be achieved.

That said, the challenges ahead of Iraq in 2018 are not smaller than those faced in 2017. The importance of succeeding in overcoming these challenges stems from the fact that they are a continuation of the path Iraq has started to follow after Al-Abadi’s government took over in 2014. The following represents the most important challenges that Iraq will face in 2018.

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Iraq’s Abadi in high-stakes plan to rein in Iranian-backed militias

Ahmed Rasheed writes for Reuters:

Under pressure from allies in the West, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is staking his career on reining in the Shi‘ite militias that helped him defeat Islamic State.

The task will not be easy. The paramilitaries, or Popular Mobilisation Forces, are mostly trained and backed by Iran, so Abadi risks angering his most powerful regional backer.

Iraq’s Shi‘ite majority also see the PMF’s 150,000 fighters as their saviors. Several militia commanders plan to run against Abadi in parliamentary elections in May and some have warned they will resist attempts to dismantle them.

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More than half of displaced Iraqis return to their homes, many of them destroyed

AFP reports:

More than half of the Iraqis displaced by conflict to other parts of the country have returned to their homes, the UN migration agency said on Thursday (Jan 4).

At the end of December, more than 3.2 million displaced Iraqis had gone home while 2.6 millions still lived away, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.

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Iraq to set up joint parliamentary panel with Kurds

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq will set up a parliamentary committee to resolve disputes with its Kurdish region including control over border crossings and sharing of oil revenue, a member of prime minister Haider Al Abadi's ruling bloc has said.

“The two sides are about to form a seven-member committee, including five members from Baghdad and two others from Kurdistan. The committee will review all controversial issues between the two sides,” an MP of the Shiite National Alliance told the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

“We expect the committee to produce fruitful results, that can solve the crisis between Baghdad and Erbil,” the source said.

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Violence Continues To Fall As Iraq Ushers In The New Year

Ali Hadi Al-Musawi writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

Civilian casualties from violent attacks in Iraq fell by 45% in December compared to the previous month, according to the United Nations. The figures released by UNAMI show that a total of 69 civilians were killed and 142 injured across Iraq, although casualties in Anbar could not be verified.

Since operations to liberate Mosul were launched in October 2016, civilian casualties overall have fallen significantly across the country. UNAMI recorded 1120 deaths in October 2016 – sixteen times higher than last month’s count. Iraq declared victory against Daesh on December 9th, after the last remaining border towns and desert regions in Anbar province were captured by Iraqi Security Forces and Hashd al-Shaabi. Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city and self-declared capital of Daesh’s so-called caliphate was officially liberated in July 2017.

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