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

How the Iraqi crackdown on the Islamic State may actually increase support for the Islamic State

Kristen Kao and Mara Revkin write for The Washington Post:

Last month, President Trump claimed the defeat of the Islamic State as justification for his decision to withdraw American troops from Syria. In 2014, at the height of its reign, the Sunni insurgent group governed an estimated 10 million people and 34,000 square miles of territory.

The Islamic State no longer controls significant territory in Iraq and Syria. But during a visit to Baghdad in December, the question being asked by Iraqi government officials was not if the Islamic State is making a comeback, but how soon the group will again be strong enough to recapture and hold territory.

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Police: Several killed in Baghdad women’s shelter fire

Philip Issa reports for AP:

A fire at a women’s shelter in Baghdad killed several lodgers on Friday, according to police, who gave conflicting accounts of the tragedy.

Baghdad Police Lt. Col. Mohammed Jihad, briefing reporters outside the shelter, called it a “group suicide” caused by women rioting in the shelter. He said several women were suffering from a “deteriorating mental state” and rioted, resulting in the fire that killed six women.

But another officer at the Rusafa police district, where the shelter is located, said the fire started in the kitchen after lodgers got into a fight. The officer, who asked that his name be withheld in line with police regulations, said two women died from stab wounds and seven perished in the fire.

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Her brother’s keeper? Iraq’s only female cabinet minister could lose her job over alleged family ties to ISIS.

Tamer El-Ghobashy writes for The Washington Post:

Iraq’s prime minister is weighing whether to accept the resignation of his education minister after allegations surfaced online that her brother had been a senior figure in the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Mosul.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s decision could have a far-reaching impact on a society that is emerging from a costly war against the militants and is struggling to heal from the deep social and political divisions caused by the Islamic State occupation.

Shaima al-Hayali, an academic from Mosul University, was barely one week into her ministerial post when members of a rival political bloc alleged that her brother had been an administrator for the Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. Her case is the highest-profile instance of what human rights groups and some Iraqi politicians have described as overzealous collective punishment of people whose family members worked with the militant group, whether by force or choice.

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Women Strive to End Genital Mutilation in Kurdish Iraq

AFP reports:

Dark skies were threatening rain over an Iraqi Kurdistan village, but one woman refused to budge from outside a house where two girls were at risk of female genital mutilation.

"I know you're home! I just want to talk," called out Kurdistan Rasul, 35, a pink headscarf forming a sort of halo around her plump features.

For many, she is an angel — an Iraqi Kurdish activist with the Germany-based nonprofit Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Cooperation (WADI), on a crusade to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM).

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Anti-IS Coalition Airstrikes Killed Over 1,000 Civilians

Voice of America reports:

U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against Islamic State have killed over 1,000 civilians in Iraq and Syria since 2014.

In a monthly civilian casualty report, the Coalition detailed confirmed deaths of 1,139 civilians in airstrikes conducted since the beginning of Operation Inherent Resolve between August 2014 and November 2018.

"The Coalition conducted a total of 31,406 strikes between August 2014 and end of November 2018. During this period, based on information available, CJTF-OIR assesses at least 1,139 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve," the report read, adding that nearly eight million Iraqis and Syrians have been liberated from IS-rule during that time.

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Iraqis in uproar after Grand Mufti issues anti-Christmas fatwa

Mina Aldroubi reports for The National:

Iraqi Christians condemned on Sunday a fatwa by prominent Sunni cleric Sheikh Abdul Mahdi Al Sumaidaie banning Muslims from engaging in Christmas and New Year celebrations.

The ruling by the Grand Mufti comes days after the cabinet's approval to make Christmas day an official holiday across the country.

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Iraqi politicians, fuming after Trump’s visit, demand U.S. forces leave the country

Nabih Bulos writes for Los Angeles Times:

Iraqi leaders are demanding U.S. troops leave the country after President Trump’s surprise visit to Iraq, which lawmakers characterized as an arrogant affront to the nation’s sovereignty.

Trump made a three-hour sojourn in Iraq, traveling to Asad Air Base, some 115 miles northwest of Baghdad, but he did not meet with any Iraqi officials. And in Iraq’s parliament, that perceived slight left both Washington’s allies and its foes fuming.

The visit confirmed U.S. disregard for other nations’ sovereignty, said Hamdillah Kaabi, spokesman for nationalist Muqtada Sadr’s Sairoon party. Sadr, the Shiite Muslim cleric whose loyalists battled U.S. forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, now heads parliament’s largest bloc. He campaigned to limit the influence of both Washington and Tehran in Iraq’s affairs. Kaabi said Thursday the party had long sought to end Washington’s “arrogance and disrespect” in its dealings with Iraq.

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Iraq says it could deploy military into Syria

Philip Issa reports for AP:

Iraqi troops could deploy into neighboring Syria, Iraq's prime minister said Monday, in the latest fallout from the U.S. decision to withdraw from the war-torn country.

Adel Abdul-Mahdi said his government was "considering all the options" to protect Iraq from threats across its borders, days after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would leave Syria.

Iraq is keeping reinforcements along its frontier to guard against infiltration by Islamic State militants, who hold a pocket of territory along the Euphrates River.

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Retreating ISIS army smuggled a fortune in cash and gold out of Iraq and Syria

Joby Warrick writes for The Washington Post:

More than a year after the collapse of its self-declared caliphate, the Islamic State is sitting on a mountain of stolen cash and gold that its leaders stashed away to finance terrorist operations and ensure the organization’s survival years into the future, intelligence officials and terrorism experts say.

As the Islamist militants retreated from former strongholds in Iraq and Syria, they carried vast sums in Western and Iraqi currency and gold coins — a trove estimated by independent experts to total about $400 million — nearly all of it looted from banks or acquired through criminal enterprises.

While some of this treasure was buried or hidden away, the group’s leaders have laundered tens of millions of dollars by investing in legitimate businesses throughout the Middle East over the past year, the officials said. The money is partly intended, analysts say, to fund a future resurgence of the Islamic State, a prospect that some experts fear could be hastened by the rapid U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria announced by the Trump administration this week.

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Risk of Double Trials for ISIS Ties

Human Rights Watch reports:

Sunni Arab boys who serve prison time in Iraq’s Kurdistan region for Islamic State (also known as ISIS) connections risk rearrest after their release if they try to reunite with their families in areas controlled by Baghdad, Human Rights Watch said today. The problem stems from a lack of coordination between the separate judicial systems of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi government.

This situation currently only affects about two dozen boys who have been released after serving time on counterterrorism charges. But dozens more and hundreds of adults will soon be released from KRG prisons. The risk of rearrest means that they may not be able to return home and reintegrate into society. It may also clog up Iraq’s prisons and courts.

“The lack of coordination between Iraq’s two separate judicial systems has led to a risk of repeated prosecutions for the same crime,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Right now, the situation largely affects boys who have served shorter sentences, but as Erbil starts releasing adults who have finished their sentence, they will face the same problem.”

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