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

ISIS’ brutal past, shrinking present, and uncertain future

AP and CBS News report:

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), responsible for some of the worst atrocities perpetrated against civilians in recent history, is on the verge of collapse.

After brutalizing residents living under its command for more than three years, the militants have now lost their self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa and are battling to hang on to relatively small pockets of territory in Iraq and Syria, besieged by local forces from all sides. Few, however, expect ISIS to completely go away, or for the bloodshed in the two countries and the region to end quickly.

Here's a look at the rise and fall of the Sunni Muslim extremist group's "caliphate," and what to expect next.

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Iraq ousted ISIS, but ‘Mosul can never be the same again’

Moni Basu writes for CNN:

A few days ago, Mahmoud Saeed boarded a plane for a trip that is sure to be filled with trepidation.

The acclaimed Iraqi author had not seen his beloved hometown in six long years. And while Mosul had been freed from the so-called Islamic State, it would never be the same.

He knew that when he finally arrived, the city that shaped him from a young boy to manhood would be unrecognizable. Mosul had survived thousands of years of myriad rulers and cultures, but ISIS dealt it a death knell.

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Mission Still Not Accomplished in Iraq

Emma Sky writes for Foreign Affairs:

In July 2017, Iraqi soldiers, backed by U.S. air strikes, liberated Mosul, the city where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), had declared a caliphate just three years before. It was a hard-won victory. For nine grueling months, Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service, an elite group of U.S.- trained forces, suffered heavy losses as they fought street by street to uproot ISIS fighters, who used the local population as human shields. Thousands of civilians were killed, and a million or so were displaced from their homes. Mosul’s historic monuments have been destroyed. And the city’s infrastructure lies in tatters.

But there is also much to celebrate. The liberation of Mosul ended a reign of terror that saw children brainwashed in schools, smokers publicly flogged, Yazidi women reduced to sex slaves, and gay men thrown from rooftops. The victory also struck a devastating blow to ISIS, killing thousands of its fighters, shrinking its resources, crushing its organizational capacity, and diminishing its global appeal.

With a military victory in hand, U.S. President Donald Trump might want to declare “mission accomplished” and seek a hasty exit from Iraq. Fourteen years after the U.S. invasion, that choice is no doubt tempting. But making it would be a dangerous mistake.

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How Sci-Fi Writers Imagine Iraq’s Future

Jason Heller writes for The Atlantic:

Speculative fiction from around the world has been gaining significant traction in the U.S. in recent years. Nordic sci-fi novels such as The Core of the Sun and Amatka—by Johanna Sinisalo and Karin Tidbeck, respectively—have been published in the States by the likes of Grove Atlantic and Vintage. Meanwhile, China’s Liu Cixin became the first Asian author to win a coveted Hugo Award for Best Novel, thanks to his staggering sci-fi novel The Three-Body Problem, which the publisher Tor Books brought to the U.S. in 2014. These books have expanded the vistas of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, genres that have long needed a plurality of voices when it comes to race, religion, gender, sexuality, and culture. Still, it’s been an uphill battle, thanks to the usual hurdles of translation, economics, and cultural differences. Iraq is one of the many countries that remain underrepresented in the U.S. when it comes to speculative fiction—although Tor aims to help rectify that with their publication in September of Iraq + 100.

Edited by the writer, filmmaker, and Iraqi expatriate Hassan Blasim, Iraq + 100bills itself as “the first anthology of science fiction to have emerged from Iraq.” It comprises 10 short stories written by Iraqis, all of whom were guided by a simple yet fertile premise: What might Iraq look like a century from now? The book is appearing in the U.S. for the first time since its initial publication in 2016. Blasim, a native of Baghdad, began assembling it in his adopted Finland after having spent years as a political refugee due to his work’s criticism of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

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When Cities Fall

Heather Murdock writes for Voice of America:

From the struggle of prolonged urban warfare, to the thrill of victory and the brutal aftermath, VOA brings you to three cities – Mosul and Tal Afar in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria – for an inside look at what happens when cities fall.

On a recent trip to west Mosul, we couldn't enter the Old City, now an uninhabitable wasteland, because militants who had been hiding out for months ambushed Iraqi Federal Police a few hours before.

As we drove around town we saw new checkpoints every few blocks, manned by various Iraqi fighting forces. Shia flags adorned some of the posts in what is an almost exclusively Sunni city, as Islamic State has killed or forced out most minorities. Traffic was thick; someone in an ambulance cleared a path by firing bullets into the air. None of this is strange now in Mosul.

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Defeat As Victory? How The Islamic State Will Rely On Hijrah To Claim A Win

Burak Kadercan writes for War on the Rocks:

The “mini-empire” that ISIL built in Iraq and Syria is collapsing, which fuels a sense of triumphalism in the West. The logic is simple: ISIL made itself simultaneously global public enemy number one and the most vibrant magnet for global Salafi jihadis, thanks to its control of territory and claims to having established a caliphate. The group also publicly declared that it aimed to “remain and expand,” taken to be a reference to its territorial presence in the region. So, the logic goes, once ISIL’s territory is gone, its claims to a caliphate will evaporate. Salafi jihadis who flocked to or cheered for ISIL because of its ability to hold and govern territory in the name of the caliphate will, per this logic, start to see the group as incompetent. Therefore, many in the West believe that while ISIL may remain a threat in terms of conducting terror attacks abroad, its failure to “remain and expand” on its own territory will eventually deal a decisive blow to its reputation.

This is the wrong conclusion to draw from ISIL’s military defeat. ISIL will most likely frame its military defeat as a victory of some sort. While Western analysts may be tempted to interpret this as a cop-out mechanism voiced by a clear “loser,” it is also likely that ISIL’s allure in the eyes of Salafi jihadis will not diminish as much as many in the national security community expect it to. ISIL plans to market defeat within a narrative of hardship, heroism, martyrdom, and “temporary” withdrawal from its territory.

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Kuwait treats 180 Mosul civilians with prostheses

Kuwait Times reports:

Kuwait continued its humanitarian aid through adopting the treatment of 180 injured civilians from Mosul city, those with prostheses, in a private hospital in Irbil yesterday. This is part of a medical project carried out by Kuwait to help displaced Iraqis and those affected by the recent military operations, with the support of the Kuwait Relief Society and the Kuwait Red Crescent, the Consul General of Kuwait, Dr. Omar al-Kandari, said.

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The failure to rebuild Mosul could let Islamic State return

The Economist reports:

When Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s prime minister, launched the battle a year ago to retake Mosul from the jihadists of Islamic State (IS, or Daesh in Arabic), he declared: “God willing we will meet in Mosul...all religions united. And together we shall defeat Daeshand rebuild this dear city.”

The first part of his promise, the defeat of IS, is almost done. Mosul was liberated in July by an alliance of Shias, Sunnis and Kurds, supported by America, Iran and other powers. The fight to eject IS from Raqqa, its Syrian capital, is drawing to a close.

But the second part of Mr Abadi’s promise, the reconstruction of Mosul, has been woefully neglected. The fate of Iraq’s second city matters—not just to its people, but as a symbol of the reintegration of Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority. Unless Sunnis feel they have a stake in the country, another incarnation of IS will surely emerge from the ruins of Sunni cities.

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Lethal roadside bomb that killed scores of U.S. troops reappears in Iraq

Kareem Fahim and Liz Sly write for The Washington Post:

A roadside bomb that killed an American soldier in Iraq earlier this month was of a particularly lethal design not seen in six years, and its reappearance on the battlefield suggests that U.S. troops could again be facing a threat that bedeviled them at the height of the insurgency here, U.S. military officials said.

The device was of a variety known as an explosively formed penetrator, or EFP, according to initial investigations, a weapon notorious for its destructive and deadly impact on armored vehicles and the service members inside them, two U.S. military officials said.

EFPs were among the most lethal weapons faced by U.S. forces before a troop withdrawal in 2011. The devices were considered a hallmark of the Iranian-backed Shiite militias battling the U.S. occupation after the toppling of Saddam Hussein. But the technology used to make them proliferated, and cruder versions were also deployed by Sunni militants.

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Iraq’s recaptured territory is being neglected

The Economist reports:

In the evening Adil Jumaili and his daughter stand beside the Tigris river in Mosul and stare at the wreckage on the opposite bank. Two twisted cars lie where their home once stood. It was destroyed, along with 8,000 other buildings, when Iraqi forces recaptured the city from the jihadists of Islamic State (IS) in July. The hospital at Mosul’s edge, once amongst Iraq’s finest, has been flattened. So, too, has the government complex, all the schools and the medieval alleyways lined with madrassas and monasteries.

Mosul may be the best known of the cities recaptured from IS. But the sense of neglect is palpable across the areas populated by Sunni Arabs. Fallujah, some 400km to the south, was not as badly damaged in the month-long battle to liberate it. But a year later its residents still complain of mistreatment by the central government. “We are living in a big prison,” says one.

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