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

Jalal Talabani: ‘The Rare Politician Who Could Talk to Anybody’

Krishnadev Calamur writes for The Atlantic:

Jalal Talabani, who dominated Kurdish politics for decades, ascended to the Iraqi presidency in the post-Saddam Hussein era, and yet remained Mam (“uncle”) Jalal to his people, has died in Berlin. He was 83.

No cause was given by Rudaw, the Kurdish news agency, but it said that Talabani had slipped into a coma earlier Tuesday. The former Iraqi president had been ailing since 2012 when he suffered a stroke that effectively removed him from daily Kurdish politics.

Over the years, Talabani embraced, sometimes literally, allies from across the political spectrum. He and his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) made common cause with Saddam in the early 1980s when the Iraqi dictator tried to divide the Kurds during his war with Iran. (The PUK, which was most left wing, saw itself as distinct from Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, which drew its support from the rural parts of Kurdish territory.) He sought refuge in Iran after Saddam gassed the Kurds in 1988. He was a close ally of the U.S., and especially the second Bush administration, whose invasion of Iraq in 2003 resulted in Saddam’s ouster and saw Talabani’s unlikely ascent to the presidency.

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Jalal Talabani, former Iraqi president and PUK leader, has died

Rudaw reports:

Former Iraqi president and leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Jalal Talabani has passed away in hospital in Berlin, Germany, aged 83.

While remaining nominally head of the PUK, Talabani withdrew from public life after suffering a stroke in December 2012. He was in Germany seeking health care and had reportedly slipped into a coma earlier in the day. According to the PUK, his condition rapidly deteriorated on Tuesday.

Known affectionately by Kurds as Mam Jalal, meaning uncle, Jalal Hisamadin Talabani was born on November 12, 1933 in the village of Kalkan near Mount Kosrat.

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U.N. says 78,000 civilians could be trapped in Iraq’s Hawija

Reuters reports:

Up to 78,000 people could be trapped in Islamic State-held Hawija in northern Iraq, the United Nations said on Tuesday, as security forces push to recapture the town.

Iraq started an offensive on Sept. 21 to seize Hawija, which fell to the hands of militants after the Iraqi army collapsed in 2014 in the face of the Islamic State offensive and remains the last militant-held town in the country’s north.

U.N. humanitarian spokesman Jens Laerke said the number of people who have fled the fighting has increased from 7,000 people during the first week of the operation to some 12,500 people now. But up to 78,000 remain trapped, he said.

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End of ISIS: Victims of the Islamic State Group Are Taking Revenge However They Can

Emily Feldman writes for Newsweek:

Days after the Islamic State group fled Mosul, Saeed Quraishi was in a judge’s office in Iraq’s Nineveh province when two women arrived. They were handing over suspects with links to ISIS. But these weren't hardened fighters or even sympathizers. They were their children, all under the age of 3. “We don’t want them,” the women said. “Their fathers are [ISIS], and they raped us.”

Quraishi watched as the women walked away, leaving their crying babies behind. He wondered if the women’s families had pressured them to give up the children. “It was a horrible situation,” says Quraishi, an Iraqi human rights worker, who asked to use a pseudonym because he feared for his safety. “Even if it was their decision, that is not easy.”

The incident wasn’t isolated. In the months since Iraqi forces ousted ISIS from Mosul, those reeling from the group’s brutal treatment have been hungry for revenge. Many have cut ties with their families and accused neighbors of ISIS-related crimes. Others have become vigilantes, rendering justice as they see fit. Earlier this year, aid workers and journalists discovered more than two dozen bodies floating down the Tigris River near Mosul. The dead—many bound and blindfolded—were ISIS suspects, likely executed by state-affiliated forces.

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Iraqi forces seize air base from Islamic state near Hawija

Reuters reports:

Iraqi forces and Shi‘ite paramilitaries captured an air base from Islamic State on Monday, the army said, gaining a strategic foothold in the north of the country as they push toward the town of Hawija.

Iraq launched an offensive on September 21 to dislodge Islamic State from Hawija, which lies west of the oil city of Kirkuk and is one of two areas of the country still under the control of the militant group.

Iraqi army commanders said the Rashad air base, which is around 30 km (20 miles) south of Hawija, was used by the militants as a training camp and logistic base.

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Fixing Fallujah: City tests Iraq’s ability to bounce back

Sofia Barbarani writes for IRIN:

Midday in Fallujah and the searing sun beats down on the dust-caked roads. The salmon-hued General Hospital towers prominently over the city: ground zero for a rebuilding and reconciliation process that holds vital clues about Iraq’s ability to move on from so-called Islamic State.

What was once a fully functioning medical facility that served 400,000 local people has yet to recover from two and a half years of war and IS rule.

Fallujah became the first major Iraqi city to fall to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his army in January 2014. IS used part of the hospital to treat fighters. Their clothes and belongings are still strewn over the floors.

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Islamic State Militants Attempt Ambush in Mosul

Heather Murdock writes for Voice of America:

Mosul’s Old City is covered in rubble and virtually abandoned. Entire blocks are destroyed and many families still haven't found the bodies of their relatives under the crushed buildings.

Iraqi forces and locals are slowly trying to make the area inhabitable, with technical teams searching house by house for bombs, more than two months after government forces re-took Mosul.

But on Saturday, Islamic State militants hiding out in one of the homes were waiting.

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Captured ISIS Fighters’ Refrain: ‘I Was Only a Cook’

Rod Nordland writes for The New York Times:

Thousands of civilians fleeing the Iraqi military’s push to evict the Islamic State from its last major urban stronghold in Iraq now include hundreds of suspected fighters for the extremist group, dirty and disheveled, who arrive at checkpoints claiming innocence and begging for mercy.

While civilians from the stronghold, the city of Hawija, have sought safety in Kirkuk and elsewhere in Iraq’s Kurdish region, this past weekend was the first time they came in large numbers with men of fighting age.

According to Iraqi Kurdish officials in Kirkuk, 90 percent of these men are suspected of having been Islamic State fighters — including some who may have committed beheadings and other atrocities — and they are being aggressively interrogated.

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Anti-IS ‘sheikh sniper’ killed in battle for Iraq’s Hawija

AFP reports:

A veteran fighter known as "the sheikh of snipers" has been killed in Iraq's battle to retake the town of Hawija from the Islamic State group, his paramilitary force announced Saturday.

Abu Tahsin al-Salhi, who took part in conflicts dating back to the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and said he had gunned down at least 320 IS jihadists, died on Friday.

He was killed as he advanced on Hawija in northwest Iraq, said Ahmad al-Assadi, spokesman for the Hashed al-Shaabi alliance mostly of Shiite militias fighting alongside government forces against the last jihadist bastions.

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The Iraqi Kurdish Security Apparatus: Vulnerability and Structure

Hamzeh Hadad and Brandon L. Wallace write for Small Wars Journal:

Cooperation between the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq (KRG) and the United States has for years provided advantages on several lines of effort by coalition forces. Iraqi Kurdish forces were essential to the efforts to defeat Saddam Hussein in 2003 and such cooperation has proven effective in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Daesh). During the liberation of Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh province, the Nineveh Operations Command was in the Makhmour, Kurdistan region of Iraq. This operations command is significant, as it provided a rare moment of joint efforts between the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Both Iraqi and American military leadership commended the level of cooperation. The joint effort was critical in the offensive to liberate Mosul beginning in October of 2016.

The security apparatus of the KRG continues to provide noteworthy intelligence, combat forces, and security forces. In turn, this partnership has produced a familiar perception of the KRG’s security apparatus as homogeneous, uniformly motivated, and stable.

However, as a central non-state partner for the U.S., it is important to recognize the underlying fragility and divisions within the KRG defense structure along multiple faults. Moreover, it is essential to recognize the growing risk for intra-state conflict within the Kurdish Region of Iraq (KRI).

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