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

Iraqi parliament votes to remove kirkuk governor from office: lawmakers

Reuters reports:

Iraq’s parliament voted on Thursday to remove the governor of Kirkuk from office following a request from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, according to several lawmakers who attended the vote.

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A striking positive shift in Sunni opinion in Iraq is underway. Here’s what it means.

Munqith al-Dagher and Karl Kaltenthaler write for The Washington Post:

Iraqi security forces have made great progress toward defeating the Islamic State in Iraq. Whether this military success will translate into enduring stability will depend in large part upon the attitudes of Iraqi Sunnis toward the postwar state. Since 2003, Iraqi Sunnis have viewed the political system as unfair and marginalizing their role in the nation’s politics. A recent public opinion survey we carried out reveals a startling and potentially significant shift in Sunni attitudes toward the Iraqi state.

A nationwide poll of Iraqis carried out by the Almustakilla for Research group in April 2017 found that for the first time since our surveys began in 2003, Sunni Arab public opinion in Iraq is very positive about the political situation in the country, while the Shiite Arab view of politics has grown more negative.

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Iraqi Kurds to Vote on Independence Despite Region’s Fears

AP reports:

Iraq's Kurds vote this month on whether or not they support independence for their enclave in the country's north, a step toward their long-held dream of statehood. The outcome, almost certain to be "yes," will further rattle a region still engulfed in the fight against the Islamic State group.

A "yes" vote won't mean immediate independence for the Kurdish region since the referendum does not have legal force. But Kurdish officials say they will use it to pressure the Iraqi government in Baghdad to come to the negotiating table and formalize their independence bid.

Already the Sept. 25 vote is fueling tensions. Baghdad and Iraq's neighbors, Iran and Turkey, which worry it will encourage their own sizeable Kurdish populations, have all demanded it be called off. Iraq's prime minister has called the referendum unconstitutional and warned of potential violence in territory claimed by both the Kurds and Baghdad. The United States, the Kurds' top ally, has tried to persuade them to postpone the vote, fearing it will open a new chapter of instability even as U.S.-backed forces try to recapture the last remaining IS-held pockets in Iraq.

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A country called Kurdistan?

Tom Westcott writes for IRIN:

In northern Iraq’s main city of Erbil, the green, white, and red striped flag of Kurdistan, with its cheerful yellow sun emblem, is everywhere. It hangs on food stalls, homes, public and government buildings; it even hangs from taxi rear-view mirrors. But nearly a century after early Kurdish nationalists introduced the tricolor at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, it still belongs to no state.

Kurdish leaders hope to change this on 25 September, when the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) puts independence to a vote in a referendum that could create the world’s 194th country (196 if you include Palestine and the Holy See).

Although a ‘yes’ is the expected outcome of the referendum, with most Iraqi Kurds in favour of the idea of independence, if not the timing of the vote, it remains contentious. Iraq, the United States, Iran, and Turkey have all come out against the referendum, and it is not clear how much popular support the idea of holding the poll this month has amongst ordinary Kurds.

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ISIS is near defeat in Iraq. Now comes the hard part.

Liz Sly and Aaso Ameen Schwan write for The Washington Post:

The collapse of the Islamic State in its most important Iraqi strongholds has brought a rare moment of hope for a country mired in war for most of the past four decades.

It is also a moment of peril, as Iraq emerges from the fight against the militants only to be confronted with the same problems that fueled their spectacular rise in 2014.

Old disputes between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds over territory, resources and power already are resurfacing as the victors of the battles compete to control liberated areas or jostle for political advantage in the post-Islamic State landscape.

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Iraq sentences Russian national to death for IS links

Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports for AP:

Baghdad’s central criminal court sentenced a Russian national to death by hanging for his membership in the Islamic State group, the court said in a statement.

The man was arrested as Iraqi forces pushed the extremist group out of Mosul’s western half, according to the statement released late Tuesday. The fight for Mosul’s west was the second phase of the operation to retake Iraq’s second largest city from IS that was launched in October of last year and declared complete in July.

The individual was tried under Iraq’s anti-terrorism law and confessed to carrying out “terrorist operations” against Iraqi security forces since 2015, said Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar, spokesman for Iraq’s supreme judicial council.

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Rich tycoon takes on Iraqi Kurdish leaders over independence

Raya Jalabi writes for Reuters:

On the eve of an independence referendum in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, one man is campaigning against a “Yes” vote which he fears could stoke tension in the Middle East.

With the 5 million Kurds in Iraq who are eligible to vote united by dreams of statehood, the outcome of the Sept. 25 referendum in the autonomous region in northern Iraq is in no doubt.

But with Baghdad making clear it opposes independence for a region that has abundant oil reserves, some voters fear now is not the time to start moves to break away from Iraq -- and rich businessman Shaswar Abdulwahid Qadir has taken up their cause.

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In push for post-ISIS reconciliation, Iraqi leaders still a sticking point

Scott Peterson writes for The Christian Science Monitor:

Pity the Iraqi peacemaker.

As the dark cloud of Islamic State occupation is forced to recede from northern Iraq, it is leaving behind a complex array of tensions over sectarian divides, security, and governance that require immediate attention if new violence is to be averted.

Already Iraqi peacemakers supported by Western aid groups and the United Nations have been making tangible progress. As Iraqi security forces push ISIS out of one village and city after another, the peacemakers establish mechanisms of reconciliation aimed at preventing revenge attacks.

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The Things They Carried: The Iraqis Who Fled Mosul

Cengiz Yar writes for Foreign Policy:

Standing by the rows of tents that line the dusty plains of northern Iraq, groups of men and children cover their faces from the searing sun. Twenty-five miles to the west, their home city of Mosul lies in ruins after a brutal nine-month battle between Iraqi forces and Islamic State fighters. The house-to-house fighting and aerial bombardment reduced entire neighborhoods to blackened heaps of rubble. The mass of decaying bodies lying beneath the debris piled along Mosul’s streets creates an unbearable stench of death that moves back and forth with the breeze. For now, these families have taken refuge outside the city, here at Khazer camp.

During the nearly endless rounds of fighting that resulted in thousands of civilian casualties, according to unofficial estimates, some 846,000 people were displaced from their homes in the city. As families fled, they took with them what few possessions they could carry. While some managed to leave with livestock or even cars, many others left with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

Often, there is little function or utility to these items — a broken watch, a child’s garment, a handful of worn photographs. They are tokens of the life — and the people — they left behind.

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Barzani vows to press on with Kurdish referendum, defying Iraq parliament

Ahmed Rasheed and Raya Jalabi write for Reuters:

Iraq’s Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani vowed on Tuesday to press ahead with a referendum on Kurdish independence on Sept. 25 despite a vote by Iraq’s parliament to reject the move.

Earlier the parliament in Baghdad authorized the prime minister to “take all measures” to preserve Iraq’s unity. Kurdish lawmakers walked out of the session before the vote and issued statements rejecting the decision.

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