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

Yazidis caught in ‘political football’ between Baghdad, Iraqi Kurds

Raya Jalabi writes for Reuters:

Since Iraqi forces pushed the Kurds out of the Yazidis’ mountainous heartland of Sinjar in northern Iraq in October, residents are wondering what could happen to them next.

Food and money are in short supply since aid organizations stopped delivery after Iraq’s advance. Buildings collapsed in the fighting and of those still standing, many are marked with bullets and littered with IEDs. Water and electricity barely work.

Now the land they have lived on for centuries is caught up in a tug of war between Baghdad and Iraq’s Kurds, who had controlled it since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

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After Fall of ISIS, Iraq’s Second-Largest City Picks Up the Pieces

Margaret Coker writes for The New York Times:

In the heat of the late summer sun, weeks after the end of one of the largest urban battles since World War II, a high school principal trekked from his home in east Mosul to the west bank of the Tigris River to confront the ruins of his life’s work.

Bordering Mosul’s Old City, his stately Ottoman-era school, where generations of Iraqi political and military leaders studied, lay in ruin. Two campus buildings had been leveled by American coalition airstrikes during the battle against the Islamic State. Century-old stone walls were scarred from shrapnel. The once-gleaming computer lab, library and theater, which in 2014 presented a student production of “Macbeth,” were burned by retreating Islamic State fighters.

The scale of devastation at the place he hoped to mold Iraq’s next generation of leaders drew a flutter of despair from the principal, Muthana Saleh. But then he harnessed the traits that residents of Mosul are famous for: ingenuity and industriousness. This month, thanks in part of volunteers and an Iraqi donor, he is planning to restart classes for 450 students.

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Iraq formally declares end to fight against Islamic State

Emma Graham-Harrison writes for The Guardian:

Iraq has formally declared its fight against Islamic State over after three years of heavy combat, although surviving militants are widely expected to launch a guerrilla war.

Isis has been driven from all the territory it once held inside Iraq, the prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, announced in Baghdad on Saturday.

The full length of the border between Iraq and Syria, which Isis fighters traversed freely for years, is also now held by Iraqi forces, a top military commander said. “All Iraqi lands are liberated from terrorist Daesh [Isis] gangs and our forces completely control the international Iraqi-Syrian border,” Lt Gen Abdul-Amir Rasheed Yar Allah said.

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Iraqi Christians celebrate in town retaken from IS

AFP reports:

Iraqi Christians celebrated the feast of the Immaculate Conception on Friday in the town of Qaraqosh that was previously occupied for three years by jihadists of the Islamic State group.

The bell tower of the church of the Immaculate Conception is still scarred by war, but its interior has been cleaned and signs of damage erased.

Qaraqosh is some 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Iraq's second city Mosul, and before being taken by IS had some 50,000 residents.

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Drops in temperatures top Kurdistan’s peaks with snow

Rudaw reports:

A cold snap has swept across the Kurdish regions of Iraq, Turkey and Iran, leading to plummeting temperatures, blocked roads, and school closures.

Fazil Ibrahim, the head of the Kurdistan Region’s Earthquake and Meteorological Department, told Rudaw that due to the drop in temperature, snow has shrouded many mountainous areas of the Kurdistan Region.

The highest level of snowfall, 16 centimeters, was recorded in the Kurdistan Region’s town of Haji Omaran which borders Iran followed by Shirwan Mazin (also in Erbil Province), Amedi, Akre and Simelan in Duhok province.

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Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Sistani condemns U.S. decision on Jerusalem

Reuters reports:

Iraq’s senior shi‘ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani condemned on Thursday U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. '‘This decision is condemned and decried, it hurt the feelings of hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims,‘’ said a statement from Sistani’s office.

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He secretly documented Islamic State atrocities as Mosul Eye. Now he’s done hiding

Lori Hinnant and Maggie Michael write for AP:

He would wander the streets of occupied Mosul by day, chatting with shopkeepers and Islamic State fighters, visiting friends who worked at the hospital, swapping scraps of information. He grew out his hair and his beard and wore the shortened trousers required by the extremists. He forced himself to witness the beheadings and stonings, so he could hear killers call out the names of the condemned and their supposed crimes.

By night, anonymously from his darkened room, Mosul Eye told the world what was happening. If caught, he too would be killed.

The revelation of his identity is for his thousands of readers and followers, for all his volunteers in Mosul who have been inspired by a man they have never seen. But above all, it is for the brother who died in the final battle and for his grieving mother.

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The Risk Of Militia Participation In Elections

Hamzeh Hadad writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

As Iraq nears provincial and parliamentary elections in May 2018, it is becoming clear that politicians affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) will take part in the elections. Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi has been very clear that those who want to participate cannot do so as part of the PMF, regardless of the type of role they hold within the paramilitary forces. Members of parliament like Hadi Al-Ameri, a PMF commander, and Ahmed Al-Assadi, the former spokesperson of the PMF have already announced their intentions to run in the elections. They will do so by formally resigning from the PMF, before registering within a political party or  entity. This is not unprecedented in Iraq given participants of previous elections and will not change the politics of the state or the issues it needs to address.

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Hairdressing, sewing, cooking – is this really how we’re going to empower women?

Samira Shackle writes for The Guardian:

In the blue tent on the building site that forms Noora Murat Khalaf’s home, the shiny new sewing machine is incongruous, to say the least.

The sewing machine was given by an NGO, as part of a women’s empowerment programme. Along with a cohort of other displaced Yazidi and Christian women, Khalaf completed a short course in tailoring, learning to sew alongside lessons on business skills.

At first, she was optimistic about the opportunity. She enjoyed the course and hoped it might lead to an income. But in the year since she finished the programme, it has proved impossible to earn money from the sewing machine. “People here in Erbil usually buy their clothes from shops ready-made,” she says. “Yazidi people like traditional tailored clothes, but all the Yazidis here are also refugees, so they have no money.” Occasionally, she mends her family’s clothes or those of neighbours – for free – but otherwise the machine is unused.

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Across the Mideast, friends and foes of the U.S. denounce Trump’s Jerusalem move

Erin Cunningham and Tamer El-Ghobashy write for The Washington Post:

Officials, religious leaders and activists across the Middle East on Thursday condemned President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with U.S. allies and foes alike denouncing the move as reckless and likely to ignite further violence in the region.

Criticism of the move, which breaks with decades of U.S. policy, poured in from countries including Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan and Iran. Lebanon’s Hezbollah called it “malicious aggression,” and Turkey’s president said it would plunge the region into a “ring of fire.”

Abadi, who has partnered closely with the United States in the fight against the Islamic State, said the move could lead to “dangerous escalation” in the region. Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said it has summoned U.S. Ambassador Douglas Silliman to deliver a formal letter of protest.

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