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

How Sunnis’ post-ISIS crisis is leading some to a new Iraqi nationalism

Scott Peterson writes for The Christian Science Monitor:

While unbridled joy has greeted the defeat of the so-called Islamic State across Iraq, the wreckage left behind includes severe trauma to Iraq’s Arab Sunnis – leaving the minority community facing what some say is an existential crisis.

One metric by which to assess this is the numbers: Most of the 5 million displaced persons in Iraq are Sunnis. And most of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who were killed, raped, or kidnapped by ISIS jihadists are Sunnis. Nearly every city left in ruins by the fight to expel ISIS – from Fallujah and Ramadi to Mosul – is predominantly Sunni.

Another metric is psychological: The community’s failure has been so acute – succumbing to nearly four years of brutal ISIS rule, and even sometimes welcoming ISIS, at first – that Iraq’s Sunnis are reeling like they haven’t for a century.

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Kidnapped, Abandoned Children Turn Up At Mosul Orphanage As ISIS Battle Ends

Jane Arraf writes for NPR:

Hammoudi laughs and gurgles as a cooing caregiver picks him up from a crib. It's clear from the attention he is getting that he's the darling of the orphanage.

The orphanage in a residential neighborhood in Mosul currently holds 18 children under the age of 6. Wooden cribs are lined end to end along bare walls in one of the rooms. A bassinet with white netting holds a baby only a few weeks old. He was left in the street near a police station in Mosul and brought by security forces to the orphanage.

There are some children whose entire families were killed in the war against the self-declared Islamic State — many buried in the rubble of crowded west Mosul when houses collapsed in bombings, airstrikes or mortar attacks.

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Less than 1,000 IS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria, coalition says

Reuters reports:

Fewer than 1,000 Islamic State fighters remain in Iraq and Syria, the United States-led international coalition fighting the hardline Sunni militant group said on Wednesday, a third of the estimated figure only three weeks ago.

Iraq and Syria have both declared victory over Islamic State in recent weeks, after a year that saw the two countries’ armies, a range of foreign allies and various local forces drive the fighters out of all the towns and villages that once made up their self-proclaimed caliphate.

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Iraq year in review: the country may be free of ISIL but lies in ruins

Florian Neuhof writes for The National:

At the foot of the craggy ridge line that slashes across the plains of northern Iraq, the devastated town of Sinjar is slowly repopulating. Crammed into their battered old cars, families pull up to houses they left in haste more than over three years ago, and have not seen since. With a home to return to, they are the fortunate ones.

Many of their neighbours are not so lucky. Sinjar sparked an international outcry in August 2014, when ISIL stormed the town and the surrounding area to kill and enslave the local Yazidi population. In response, the US began its bombing campaign to curb and reverse the terrorist group's headlong advance against a crumbling Iraqi military. Air support by the US-led coalition allowed the Iraqis to beat back and ultimately defeat ISIL in a war culminating in the bloody nine-month battle for the city of Mosul, during which bombs flattened large swathes of the city.

Across Iraq, liberated towns, cities and villages have suffered a similar fate. Some, like Mosul or desert towns like Al Qaim near the Syrian border, have only recently been wrested from the extremists. Others, like Fallujah, retaken by the Iraqi military in the spring of 2015, still wait for essential services to be restored, and homes to be rebuilt.

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Iraq’s Mosul celebrates first post-IS Christmas

Mohammed Salim writes for AFP:

Hymns and cries of joy filled a church in Iraq's second city Mosul on Sunday as worshippers celebrated Christmas there for the first time in four years after the end of jihadist rule.

Mass opened with the Iraqi national anthem as women ululated, despite the modest decorations inside the church and the armoured cars and police outside.

"This is a sign that life is returning to Mosul," said wheelchair-bound Hossam Abud, 48, who returned earlier this month from exile in Iraqi Kurdistan.

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Judge Sides With ACLU, Ruling American Detainee In Iraq Has Right To Lawyer

Amy Held reports for NPR:

"Somewhere in Iraq, a United States citizen has been in the custody of the U.S. armed forces for over three months."

That is how a federal Judge on Saturday begins her ruling, describing the situation of a never-charged American classified as an enemy combatant, as she ordered the Pentagon provide the prisoner with "immediate" access to a lawyer.

The still-unnamed man was captured by the Syrian militia in mid-September and handed over to the U.S. military as a suspected member of the Islamic State.

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The men saving history from ISIS

Lesley Stahl reports for CBS News:

We have come across an unlikely band of brothers on the battlefield against terrorism. They are men of the cloth, a pair of padres, who go into harm's way to find and protect ancient religious books and manuscripts.

We joined them in a region of Iraq that was once Mesopotamia where human culture and learning really began. It's believed to be the birthplace of mathematics, writing and agriculture and recently, the scene of some of the fiercest battles in the U.S.-backed war against ISIS.

Father Columba, a Benedictine monk from Minnesota and Father Najeeb Michaeel, a Dominican friar from Iraq decided to partner up to rescue what old documents they could from places like this monastery, Mar Behnam, in Northern Iraq that goes back to the 4th century. It was occupied and defaced by ISIS.

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Mosul’s morgue men endured worst of Islamic State butchery

Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Maggie Michael write for AP:

The young man ended up on the morgue’s examining table in two parts.

The morgue in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul was where atrocity met bureaucracy, the processing point for the machine of butchery that the Islamic State group created across its territory in Iraq and Syria. Every day, the doctors and staff witnessed the worst of what the militants were capable of inflicting on a human being, constantly fearing they could be next.

Yet the morgue men of Mosul found ways large and small to defy their captors by honoring the dead as best they could.

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How ISIS Changed the Yezidi Religion

Cathy Otten writes for The Atlantic:

On a recent Friday afternoon, Yezidi musicians led a procession of worshipers toward a newly rebuilt temple on a hillside in northern Iraq. Women burned incense and the congregation threw handfuls of sweets at the flute and drum players. Hundreds of local Yezidis from the town of Behzane, near Mosul, had gathered to reopen one of the temples blown up by ISIS.

“We are so excited to be back,” said a flute player, Arean Hassan. The spiraling, rhythmic music played by Yezidi musicians, known as Qawwals, had been absent from the hills of Behzane for three years under ISIS. Around the newly rebuilt temple stood the charred stumps of olive trees that ISIS had burned to the ground.

But there’s an unavoidable question at the heart of the happiness and defiance of the worshipers, who not long ago were targeted for genocide precisely because of these religious practices. How do you rehabilitate a religion that’s been singled out for such intense trauma and displacement?

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Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitaries deploy to Syrian border

Ahmed Aboulenein writes for Reuters:

Iraqi Shi‘ite paramilitary groups have deployed to the frontier to back up border guard forces who came under fire from within Syria over the past three days, one of their commanders said on Friday.

There was no immediate word on who opened fire from Syrian territory, but forces arrayed against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria expect the group will resort to guerrilla warfare after losing its urban bastions earlier this year.

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