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

Tal Afar After Liberation From ISIS: Battered but Still Standing

Rukmini Callimachi writes for The New York Times:

An airstrike left a crater the size of a tennis court in one neighborhood. Artillery punched a gaping hole in the minaret of the city’s main mosque. Some buildings were leveled.

But in the hard calculus of the war against the Islamic State terrorist group, which was evicted from Tal Afar this week after three years of occupation, that was good news.

The majority of Tal Afar’s structures are still standing, even if many have been defaced. Compared with the wholesale destruction in the battle to retake Mosul, where the worst-hit neighborhoods resemble the landscape after a 7.0-magnitude quake, the smaller city to the north is largely intact — even if it may still take months to repair the scarred masonry, cover up craters and sweep aside the detritus left by Islamic State fighters, including their graffiti of death.

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Iraq readies to retake last IS urban bastion

AFP reports:

Iraqi government and paramilitary forces announced Friday plans to launch an assault to retake Hawija, the last Islamic State group's urban bastion in the country, a day after recapturing Tal Afar.

Iraqi forces have now forced IS out of all its Iraqi territories except the town of Hawija, 300 kilometres (190 miles) north of Baghdad, and three pockets of territory near the border with Syria.

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Mosul Holds Clues About a Post-ISIS Future

Kori Schake writes for The Atlantic:

The devastation the so-called Islamic State wreaked on the Iraqi city of Mosul stuns the senses. Suicide bombers blew up the hospital so that ISIS leaders being treated there couldn’t be captured and interrogated. A water plant mechanic tells of being lashed 40 times because his wife answered the door unveiled. An engineer tells of seeing neighbors burned alive. Children haven’t been to school in nearly three years. The jewel of a university, some of the most modern buildings in the city, are rubble; its library’s 2 million volumes now ashes. ISIS defaced statues, burned churches, blew up the central mosque, and knocked over the minaret of Mosul’s landmark mosque. Junk yards of burned vehicles extend thousands of yards along the highway.  I witnessed all those things in Iraq at the invitation of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to look at the challenges of political, economic, and social reconstruction.

One could be forgiven for thinking Iraq remains a tangled mess of sectarian division and political failings, whose people are incapable of resolving their differences and working together to rebuild the country. Those who believe the people of the Middle East unsuited to democracy may even take satisfaction their bias has been borne out by events. That is not what I saw in Iraq.

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Iraq faces vast challenges despite victories over IS: experts

Sarah Benhaida writes for AFP:

Iraq's victory over the Islamic State group in Tal Afar was the latest in a string of gains against the jihadist group, but Iraqi forces still face massive challenges, experts say.

Coalition officials say Iraqi-led decision-making and better sharing of intelligence between Baghdad and the US-led coalition have allowed for quicker, more targeted attacks.

But Iraq's Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari warned on August 26 that "victory in Iraq will not mean an end to the danger posed by IS".

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Lightning Tal Afar battle tests US soldiers’ agility

Chad Garland writes for Star and Stripes:

During the grinding battle to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group, U.S. advisers to the Iraqis often settled in at tactical bases near the front for several weeks, but the fast-moving fight for Tal Afar — one of the last ISIS bastions in Iraq before being liberated Thursday — put their agility to the test.

The Iraqi offensive, planned and launched less than two months after a punishing, nearly 270-day battle in Mosul, impressed some U.S. advisers. It may also have caught ISIS flat-footed, causing them to fold and run, said Col. Charlie Costanza, a coalition deputy commander in Irbil.

But even before the battle had started, preparations for it required soldiers to adapt on the fly. Lt. Col. John Hawbaker, a commander within the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team advising Iraqi forces, said he was planning to turn left when leading his unit’s relocation from a tactical base south of Mosul, where it had supported federal police forces, but at the last minute he was told to turn right to support the Iraqi army’s 16th division outside Tal Afar.

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Life After ISIS Slavery for Yazidi Women and Children

Cathy Otten writes for The New Yorker:

This summer, Iraqi forces finally drove ISIS out of Mosul and most of northern Iraq. But for the Yazidis, a long persecuted religious and ethnic minority who practice a faith with pre-Zoroastrian roots and Islamic and Christian influences, stability is still a distant prospect. ISIS militants consider the Yazidis infidels and have subjected them to systematic killings, rape, and pillage. In the summer of 2014,ISIS killed hundreds, possibly thousands, of Yazidis; more than fifty thousand survivors fled to Sinjar Mountain, in the baking August heat. Three thousand Yazidis remain in ISIS captivity, but as ISIS  has lost territory, international interest in them has faded.

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As Islamic State withers, the alliance against it is fraying

The Economist reports:

Down the Euphrates river, halfway between Deir ez-Zor and Syria’s border with Iraq, lies Dura Europos, an ancient metropolis where the Parthians of Persia sparred with the Roman Empire for control of the Middle East. History, it seems, is repeating itself. As Islamic State (IS) withers, America’s coalition is racing to secure the same stretch of river, before Iran and its allies.

Never have America and its allies had such a hold on Syrian territory. In the north, America has worked with the Kurds to carve out a self-governing region. From there it provides support for Kurdish and Arab forces pushing down the northern bank of the river. Its Syrian proxies have fanned out in pockets around the border with Jordan, from Deraa to north of al-Tanf, a coalition base.

But like their Parthian forebears, Iran and its allies have the upper hand. The Syrian army, backed by Iran’s Quds Force, and Shia and tribal militias are pressing on Deir ez-Zor, with the help of Russian air cover. In the north, they have reached the southern bank of the Euphrates. Soldiers coming from Palmyra have crossed over 100 miles of desert. In the south, they have reached Iraq’s border.

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Returnees to Old Mosul Find Little Besides Rubble, Lingering Danger

Heather Murdock writes for Voice of America:

“All you can hear at night is the sound of broken doors flapping in the wind,” says Abd Elaam, a 50-year-old furniture maker. “Even soldiers stay indoors after dark.”

Elaam is currently one of the very few civilians living in Old Mosul, an ancient neighborhood shattered by the battle to recapture the city from Islamic State militants. Like many families that survived IS rule, he says, his resources are completely exhausted by the war and he has nowhere else to go.

Other families trickle in by day, looking to repair their broken homes or recover the bodies of their dead loved ones. But even during daylight hours, the neighborhood is dangerous, riddled with bombs and an unknown number of militants hiding out in the vast network of tunnels under the tightly-packed buildings and piles of rubble. The level of destruction has been compared to World War II Dresden.

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IS conflict: Iraq declares ‘liberation’ of Nineveh province

BBC News reports:

Iraq's prime minister says Nineveh province has been "fully liberated" from so-called Islamic State, after the district of Tal Afar was recaptured.

Haider al-Abadi's announcement followed the defeat of the jihadist group in the town of Ayadiya, where the militants had fled to from Tal Afar.

It leaves IS in control of just a few urban areas and some barren desert in central and western Iraq.

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Platts plans assessments for Iraqi Basrah Light and Basrah Heavy crude

Reuters reports:

Oil price agency S&P Global Platts is proposing to start price assessments for Iraqi Basrah Light and Basrah Heavy crude oil cargoes on a free-on-board (FOB) Basrah basis from Nov. 1, the company said in a subscriber note on Thursday.

These new assessments will be added to its existing prices for Basrah Light on a delivered U.S. Gulf Coast basis, the company, a unit of S&P Global Inc, said.

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