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

Iraqi court sentences al Qaeda leader’s sister to death

AP reports:

A Baghdad court has convicted the sister of the former leader of al Qaeda in Iraq who was killed in 2010 and sentenced her to death on terrorism charges, a spokesman said Thursday. The spokesman of Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council, Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar, said in a statement that Abu Omar al-Baghdadi's sister was found guilty of "offering logistic support and help to (the militants) in carrying out criminal acts."

The woman, whose name was not released, was also found guilty of "distributing money" among the militants in Mosul. He didn't give more details on the charges or what years she cooperated with al Qaeda in Iraq.

Bayrkdar said the woman's husband was earlier also sentenced to death as a member of the al Qaeda leadership.

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ICRC says has more ‘cooperative’ access to detained Islamic State families

Raya Jalabi reports for Reuters:

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Wednesday it had “increasingly cooperative” access to families of suspected Islamic State militants whose safety in detention has been a focus of concern for foreign aid agencies.

More than 1,000 wives and children have been held in Iraq since the defeat of Islamic State militants in August 2017, and some of the women have gone on trial for joining Islamic State.

Foreign aid agencies said last year they were “gravely concerned” about the fate of the families.

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Iraq force that helped beat IS turns to reconstruction

Sarah Benhaida writes for AFP:

Three months ago, Ibrahim Ali was using his digger to smash down defensive embankments built by Islamic State group jihadists in northern Iraq.

But after years of digging for victory, he and his comrades have now turned their skills to civilian use: gouging out irrigation channels for farmers in the southern province of Basra.

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Iraq and Saudi Arabia Come Together Just for Kicks

Margaret Coker writes for The New York Times:

Fresh sod had been carefully mowed in the new stadium. Special trains carried thousands of fans on the 10-hour journey from Baghdad. Intelligence agents had even coached the team’s official cheerleader to make the visiting team feel welcome.

But when the Iraqi national soccer team played its first home game against Saudi Arabia in almost 40 years, diplomatic niceties vanished as soon as the Iraqi team took the field.

“We hope the Saudis will feel comfortable in our town,” said Diah Taliq, a car mechanic who took off early from work to attend the match. “But that’s where our sympathy stops. On the field, we hope to crush them.”

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New Wave of Families Flees Post-Islamic State Iraq

Heather Murdock writes for Voice of America:

“They kicked us out of our home and stole our furniture and valuables,” said Rugya Saleem, a mother of six, plucking at the carpet of the tent in a desert refugee camp.

She said her husband was forced to join Islamic State militants, and then was later killed by victims of the group. “They said our things belonged to IS. But they didn’t. It was all we had.”

Going home again, she added, is not an option. Like many other people across northern Iraq, she fled her home recently, months after Iraq’s battle with IS militants was declared victorious. And while people are returning to their homes in droves, in many camps, the population is growing.

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In Mosul, hundreds fear arrest for sharing names with extremists

AFP reports:

Since extremists were pushed out of Mosul, Mohammed has not left his home. Although he never joined the Daesh group, he shares a name with one of its fighters and fears arrest.

Sami Al Faisal, who runs a human rights group, said he had recorded “about 2,500 people suffering from similar names” in Mosul and its surrounding province.

Personal ID cards in Iraq, like most Arab countries, carry a person’s first name, father’s name and grandfather’s name. But to determine a person’s surname and tribe, it’s often necessary to look into the area’s personal status records.

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Militants’ Bodies Still Rot in Old Mosul Amid Rebuilding Efforts

Heather Murdock writes for Voice of America:

Crushed under rubble and burned out cars, dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of corpses of Islamic State militants still lie where they fell in the battle for Mosul’s Old City that ended last July.

In the final throws of the fight, Iraqi authorities dug tirelessly, searching for the bodies of civilians. Over the course of the months-long war, thousands of the dead were recovered. About 70 people were pulled from the wreckage alive.

Authorities, however, made a point of ignoring the corpses of IS militants. They said those bodies should be thrown out with the trash.

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Months After ISIS, Much Of Iraq’s Mosul Is Still Rubble

Jane Arraf writes for NPR:

Ziad Abdul Qader came back to his house in the Iraqi city of Mosul recently to find a pile of charred human bones in the courtyard. He'd seen the bodies of the two ISIS fighters when he came to check on the house months ago and hurriedly left. When he returned in mid-February, they had been set on fire.

"A group was going around burning bodies because they were worried about disease," he says.

He plans to shovel the bones into a bag and throw it in the trash. The macabre pile is just another obstacle for the former shop owner struggling to repair his damaged home eight months after U.S.-backed Iraqi forces drove ISIS from Mosul.

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Terror, Online And Off: Recent Trends In Islamic State Propaganda Operations

Charlie Winter and Haroro J. Ingram write for War on the Rocks:

In 2015, when the Islamic State (ISIL) was at the peak of its propaganda activities, it had dozens of official outlets churning out hundreds of unique media products each week, framing its caliphate proto-state as a utopian alternative to the global status quo—a blissful place of stability, piety, and sunsets.  However, as the years progressed and the coalition and its partners continued to advance in Syria and Iraq, its strategic communication operations altered course, becoming both less varied and less plentiful.

One of the first signs of their changing fortunes came in mid-2016, when the caliphate’s audio-visual capabilities temporarily dropped off a cliff online, its propaganda dissemination network on the Telegram app failing almost simultaneously. In the aftermath of this collapse, the group recovered, continuing to make propaganda (and lots of it) and adopting more resilient distribution tactics. Still, a new and less productive norm had emerged.

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Elections Are Coming in the Middle East—but Change Isn’t

Yaroslav Trofimov writes for The Wall Street Journal:

It’s election season in the Middle East. The fact that few seem to care about the outcome of these votes shows just how much authoritarian restoration and sectarian conflict transformed the region after the 2011 Arab Spring briefly stoked its peoples’ democratic hopes.

The Arab world's most populous country - Egypt - is holding a presidential election this month. Lebanon will pick a new parliament and government on May 6, its first national election in nearly a decade. A week later, Iraqis will go to the polls for the first time since Islamic State's spread and defeat upended the country's politics.

In none of these cases is the direction of the countries holding the vote likely to change significantly - either because the elections themselves have turned into a meaningless ritual (as in Egypt), or because the fractured nature of societies and the power of armed militias make electoral results secondary to dealmaking among sectarian and political factions (as in Lebanon and Iraq).

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