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

Iraq returning displaced civilians from camps to unsafe areas

Ahmed Aboulenein writes for Reuters:

Iraqi security forces are forcibly returning civilians from refugee camps to unsafe areas in the predominantly Sunni Anbar province, exposing them to death from booby-traps or acts of vigilantism, refugees and aid workers say.

Managing more than two million Iraqis displaced by the war against Islamic State is one of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s most daunting tasks. But critics say he is more interested in winning elections in May than alleviating the suffering of displaced Iraqis and returning them safely home.

Authorities are sending back people against their will, refugees and aid workers say, to ensure that the election takes place on time. People must be in their area of origin to vote and if they do not get home, this could delay the election.

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Life After ISIS: One Sister Wants To Rebuild. The Other Can’t Wait To Leave

Jane Arraf writes for NPR:

Farah Khaled stands in front of the scorched and twisted steel beams of the destroyed Mosul University library. Red and green ribbons stand out against the blackened metal — remnants of a book drive Khaled and other students organized.

She and her sister, Raffal Khaled, 19, are both in their freshman year at Mosul University. Like many of the students, Farah is three years behind schedule.

The sisters were lucky in many ways — children of middle-class parents who lost neither their home nor family members during the reign of ISIS and the brutal fighting that liberated the city last year.

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UK ‘inadvertently helped neuter’ Middle East ally the Iraqi Kurds

Patrick Wintour writes for The Guardian:

Foreign Office ministers inadvertently helped neutralise the Iraqi Kurds, one of Britain’s most effective allies in efforts to limit Iranian influence in the Middle East, a former UK and Nato official has claimed.

The claims, which refer to the weeks in September and October 2017 when the Iraqi government moved against Kurdish militia after an independence referendum, are expected to be raised with the Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt at a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday in which the UK government will be asked to justify its assertion that Baghdad has recaptured disputed Kurd-held territory with “limited clashes and loss of life”.

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2018: Iraq’s Challenges Ahead

Muhammad al-Waeli writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

2017 was one of the most significant years in Iraq’s modern history. The significance is not only because of the victory against ISIS, preventing the division of the country, nor the complete removal of the UN sanctions against Iraq. It is more than all that put together. The significance comes from the fact that Iraq showed that it has the potential to overcome the challenges that threatened its existence, proving all the analysis and predictions about its end to be incorrect. It showed that if there is enough will, the impossible can be achieved.

That said, the challenges ahead of Iraq in 2018 are not smaller than those faced in 2017. The importance of succeeding in overcoming these challenges stems from the fact that they are a continuation of the path Iraq has started to follow after Al-Abadi’s government took over in 2014. The following represents the most important challenges that Iraq will face in 2018.

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Iraq’s Abadi in high-stakes plan to rein in Iranian-backed militias

Ahmed Rasheed writes for Reuters:

Under pressure from allies in the West, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is staking his career on reining in the Shi‘ite militias that helped him defeat Islamic State.

The task will not be easy. The paramilitaries, or Popular Mobilisation Forces, are mostly trained and backed by Iran, so Abadi risks angering his most powerful regional backer.

Iraq’s Shi‘ite majority also see the PMF’s 150,000 fighters as their saviors. Several militia commanders plan to run against Abadi in parliamentary elections in May and some have warned they will resist attempts to dismantle them.

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More than half of displaced Iraqis return to their homes, many of them destroyed

AFP reports:

More than half of the Iraqis displaced by conflict to other parts of the country have returned to their homes, the UN migration agency said on Thursday (Jan 4).

At the end of December, more than 3.2 million displaced Iraqis had gone home while 2.6 millions still lived away, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.

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Iraq to set up joint parliamentary panel with Kurds

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

Iraq will set up a parliamentary committee to resolve disputes with its Kurdish region including control over border crossings and sharing of oil revenue, a member of prime minister Haider Al Abadi's ruling bloc has said.

“The two sides are about to form a seven-member committee, including five members from Baghdad and two others from Kurdistan. The committee will review all controversial issues between the two sides,” an MP of the Shiite National Alliance told the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

“We expect the committee to produce fruitful results, that can solve the crisis between Baghdad and Erbil,” the source said.

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Violence Continues To Fall As Iraq Ushers In The New Year

Ali Hadi Al-Musawi writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

Civilian casualties from violent attacks in Iraq fell by 45% in December compared to the previous month, according to the United Nations. The figures released by UNAMI show that a total of 69 civilians were killed and 142 injured across Iraq, although casualties in Anbar could not be verified.

Since operations to liberate Mosul were launched in October 2016, civilian casualties overall have fallen significantly across the country. UNAMI recorded 1120 deaths in October 2016 – sixteen times higher than last month’s count. Iraq declared victory against Daesh on December 9th, after the last remaining border towns and desert regions in Anbar province were captured by Iraqi Security Forces and Hashd al-Shaabi. Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city and self-declared capital of Daesh’s so-called caliphate was officially liberated in July 2017.

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The Remarkable Resilience of the Prime Minister of Iraq

Jack Watling writes for The Atlantic:

For the past three years, Iraq has been held together by one common goal: the defeat of the Islamic State. In pursuit of this objective, the United States provided air support to Iranian proxies; Baghdad made concessions to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over disputed oil exports; and political parties contained protests against rampant corruption to preserve a sense of unity. This balancing of tensions, a consensus of sorts, saved Iraq. Then, on December 9, Haider al-Abadi, the country’s prime minister, gave a televised address in which he declared “final victory” over ISIS—effectively ending the consensus. Now, the question is whether he can tackle the myriad challenges rushing to greet him.

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Drug use, sales soar in Iraq’s Basra amid nationwide spike

Sinan Salaheddin writes for AP:

The rows of self-harm scars that course upward on the teenager’s forearms from her wrists nearly to her elbows are reminders of dark times.

At age seven, the now 19-year-old was diagnosed with sickle-cell anemia, a hereditary disease that comes with painful symptoms, including inflammation of the hands and feet and frequent infections. She became a regular visitor to a hospital where she was given Tramadol, an opioid medication that brought some relief.

Eventually, though, she began obtaining the medication even when there was no pain.

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