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

Abadi says Iraq to act soon over border areas in stand-off with Kurds

Ahmed Rasheed and Raya Jalabi write for Reuters:

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, seeking to up the pressure in a stand-off with Iraq’s Kurdish region, said on Tuesday he would act soon over border areas under Kurdish control but predicted his government’s forces would regain them without violence.

The central government in Baghdad has cracked down hard on the Kurds since the government of the Kurdish autonomous region staged an independence referendum on Sept. 25 that Baghdad considers illegal.

“We will regain control on border areas without escalation. But our patience will run out. We will not wait forever. We will take action,” Abadi said at a news conference.

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Doing Business In Iraq: On Track To Wider Economic Reform

Hassan Hadad writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

A few months into his term Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi laid out his vision for reforms in front of global leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos. By the summer of 2015 his political reforms had grabbed all the headlines, overshadowing the reforms he was bringing to the military and economy. But as the fight against Da’ish draws down, the focus has turned back to the economy.

On October 31st the World Bank published its Doing Business 2018 report, an annual report “measuring the regulations that enhance business activity and those that constrain it” and ranks “the ease of doing business” across 190 countries.

On the surface, the latest report is no different for Iraq than the previous Doing Business reports. A closer look, however, shows a different story. For example, out of ten indicators that make up an economy’s overall score, Iraq improved on six indicators from 2017.

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The ISIS orphans

Chris Brown writes for CBC News:

Thousands of young children of ISIS fighters who came from abroad to join the battle have been left to fend for themselves after their parents were imprisoned or killed on the battlefield.

Stranded far from home, with no documentation, many ISIS orphans have ended up in orphanages in Mosul and the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

And perhaps no country is trying harder to get its children back than Russia.

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Strong earthquake hits Iraq and Iran, killing more than 450

Parisa Hafezi and Raya Jalabi report for Reuters:

Thousands of homeless Iranians huddled against the cold late on Monday, a day after at least 450 people were killed in Iran’s deadliest earthquake in more than a decade, state TV said.

Rescue teams kept up search operations for dozens trapped beneath the rubble of collapsed houses in towns and villages in the mountainous area of the western province of Kermanshah that borders Iraq.

Iran’s English-language Press TV said more than 450 people were killed and 7,000 were injured when the magnitude 7.3 earthquake jolted the country on Sunday. Local officials expected the death toll to climb as search and rescue teams reached remote areas of Iran.

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Changing of the Guard Resets Cycle of Retribution in Iraq

Isabel Coles and Ali Nabhan write for The Wall Street Journal:

The victors in the latest reversal of fortunes here in this part of northern Iraq have wasted no time erasing the legacy of three years of Kurdish rule.

Since routing the Kurds in October, Iraqi forces have scrubbed out their sun-emblazoned flag and replaced pictures commemorating Kurdish Peshmerga fighters killed in the war against Islamic State with portraits of their own “martyrs.”

The shift in power has favored local Arabs over Kurds here, setting off a new round of score-settling that undermines hopes for stability in the country just as it triumphs over Islamic State.

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New mass graves found in Iraq could contain up to 400 bodies

AP reports:

Iraqi security forces have found mass graves in an area recently retaken from the Islamic State group that could contain up to 400 bodies, an Iraqi official said Sunday.

The bodies of civilians and security forces were found in an abandoned base near Hawija, a northern town retaken in early October, Kirkuk governor Rakan Saed said. He didn't say when authorities will start exhuming the bodies from the mass graves.

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Iraqi forces launch offensive to recapture last town in Islamic State control

Raya Jalabi writes for Reuters:

Iraqi forces launched an offensive on Saturday to capture Rawa, the last remaining town under Islamic-State control, leaving the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate on the verge of complete defeat.

The capture of the town would mark the end of Islamic State’s era of territorial rule over a so-called caliphate that it proclaimed in 2014 across vast swathes of Iraq and Syria.

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Islamic State has lost 90% of its territory in Iraq and Syria. Where in the world is Abu Bakr Baghdadi?

Alexandra Zavis writes for LA Times:

As an array of local and international forces close in on Islamic State’s last redoubts in Syria and Iraq, the whereabouts of the extremist group’s secretive leader remain a mystery.

A media outlet linked to the Syrian military reported Friday that Abu Bakr Baghdadi had been spotted in the eastern town of Bukamal during a recent offensive to recapture Islamic State’s last urban stronghold in Syria. But Baghdadi sightings have been reported before. So has his death. None of it has ever been confirmed.

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In Baghdad, signs of life back on the streets

Imran Khan writes for Al Jazeera:

What comes to mind when you think of Baghdad? A year ago the Iraqi capital was a scene of explosions, military checkpoints and armed men roaming the streets. Baghdad has suffered numerous attacks and security problems in the past several years.

I have been reporting from here extensively since 2011, and witnessed the rise of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) who captured huge swathes of the country three years later.

Putting aside the American occupation and invasion for a moment, the last few years have been incredibly violent for the city. However, I noticed a marked difference as I arrived back on an assignment.

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Shi’ites gather in Iraq’s Kerbala for mourning rite

Reuters reports:

Chanting and flailing themselves in mourning for Imam Hussein, hundreds of thousands of Shi‘ite Muslims from around the world gathered in the Iraqi city of Kerbala on Friday for one of the most sacred rituals in their religious calendar.

Arbain marks the culmination of a 40-day mourning period for Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed who was killed in a 7th century battle in Kerbala.

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