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

At least 800 civilians killed by coalition strikes in Iraq, Syria: report

Reuters reports:

At least 800 civilians have been killed in strikes in Iraq and Syria by the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State since the campaign began in 2014, according to a report released by the coalition on Thursday.

The estimate in the monthly report, which said coalition strikes had unintentionally killed at least 801 civilians between August 2014 and October 2017, was far lower than figures provided by monitoring groups.

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What next for PMU in Iraq’s Anbar province?

Shelly Kittleson writes for Al-Monitor:

Flags of Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous) — with their distinctive arm thrusting a gun upward over a green Iraq against a white background, a strip of red and a Quran below — fluttered at the checkpoint into Qaim, above a dusty, barren wadi below. When Al-Monitor visited the area Nov. 6, the checkpoint was manned by Asaib Ahl al-Haq fighters and members of the fellow Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) militia Kataib Hezbollah, also long backed by Iran and a part of which continues to fight on the Syrian side of the border alongside the Syrian regime.

Referring to the capture of the Karableh and Saada areas of Qaim from the Islamic State (IS), Col. Moussa Hamad al-Karbouly told Al-Monitor in Karableh, “PMU fighters from the south were the first to enter.” Karbouly leads the local Sunni PMU force, Liwa Aaly al-Furat (Upper Euphrates Regiment). Many local forces in the area have taken to using the terms “main PMU,” “southern PMU” and “Shiite PMU” to distinguish among outside paramilitary groups and local fighters, who are often somewhat inappropriately referred to as “tribal forces.”

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Britain’s May in Saudi Arabia after surprise stop in Iraq

AP reports:

British Prime Minister Theresa May traveled to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday night and met King Salman and his assertive 32-year-old son who now stands next in line for the throne, capping a day that saw her make a surprise visit to Iraq.

May's trip to Saudi Arabia was for talks with the king and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the kingdom-led war in Yemen. She's the second European leader to specifically seek out the crown prince as he amasses power.

Earlier on Wednesday, May arrived in Baghdad to an honor guards' greeting, welcomed by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

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Iraq’s FlyBaghdad plans European flights next year, IPO in 2020

Reuters reports:

Iraqi budget carrier FlyBaghdad aims to start flights to Europe and India next year, expanding its network beyond the Middle East and is planning a stock market listing in 2020, it chief executive said on Wednesday.

FlyBaghdad, owned by Iraqi investors, launched in 2015, competing against state-owned Iraqi Airways, one of the Middle East’s oldest airlines, and several other private carriers.

“There is a huge population which are cash rich and are not too many places to visit in Iraq. Everyone is talking about travelling,” Chief Executive Ali al-Hamdany told Reuters at an industry conference in Dubai.

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Documents reveal how ISIL ran areas under its control

Ali Younes writes for Al Jazeera:

Documents from ISIL-held areas in Iraq have shed light on the armed group's tough rules of internal governance and the fate awaiting fighters who violated its code of conducts and laws.

Obtained by Al Jazeera, the files also provide further evidence about the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant's structure and level of organisation.

The documents were seized from al-Baaj district west of Mosul, Iraq's second-biggest city, following its capture by Iraqi forces in June.

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Drought and Neglect Have Decimated Iraq’s Breadbasket

Alex Dziadosz writes for Bloomberg:

East of the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah, malls and high-rise apartments give way to cement-block factories, warehouses, and junkyards. Tucked among a freeway, a gravel pit, and a trash heap as tall as a barn, Mohammed Osman plucks herbs from four acres of gray, cracked earth fed by sewage from a nearby drainage pipe.

Fifty years ago, Osman says, his family farmed more than 10 times that area, harvesting rice, watermelons, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Much of the land was seized by local officials to make way for factories—without compensation, he claims. What remains is barely fit to produce animal feed. “Honestly, I’m just keeping myself busy now,” Osman says. “This year, I rented three pieces of land and I paid 5 million dinars ($4,300)—and so far, I’ve only made 1 million back.”

Osman’s is a common sort of story in Iraqi Kurdistan, where farmers face a dizzying array of problems, from drought and polluted water supplies, to ruthless urban expansion and an influx of cheap imports. Endowed with a temperate climate and fertile soil, the Kurdistan region was once known as Iraq’s breadbasket. In 1980 the area supplied about half of the country’s wheat, as well as barley and a variety of vegetables. Today the main wholesale market in Erbil, the regional capital, is packed with trucks from Turkey and Iran and produce from as far as China. “We get zero support,” one Kurdish farmer says as he unloads tomatoes.

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Iraq faces tough battle against IS desert hideouts

AFP reports:

Iraqi forces said Monday they face a tough battle against the Islamic State group in deep gorges and other natural hideouts in the western desert along the Syrian border, their last bastion in Iraq.

“Our units have cleared 50 percent of the total area of the desert of around 29,000 square kilometres (11,000 sq miles). The first phase is over,” General Yahya Rassoul, spokesman of the Joint Operations Command, told AFP.

“Now our units will proceed to clearing the rest of the desert zones, including Wadi (valley) Hauran,” he said.

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Bombing in southeast Baghdad kills 11

Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports for AP:

Iraqi police and hospital officials say a bombing in southeast Baghdad has killed 11 people.

The officials say the attack late Monday night targeted a popular shopping district and left also 26 civilians wounded.

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Thousands more US military service members in Iraq and Syria than believed

Luis Martinez writes for ABC News:

Thousands more American troops are serving in Iraq and Syria than has been previously acknowledged by the Pentagon, a new report finds.

According to the Defense Manpower Data Center's quarterly report from September, there were 1,720 American troops in Syria -- three times as many as the 503 troops in Syria that U.S. military spokesmen have told reporters. The Pentagon's personnel agency issues quarterly reports about how many American troops are serving in individual states and overseas countries.

The same report showed there were 8,992 American troops in Iraq, almost 3,500 more than the official Department of Defense tally of 5,262.

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Iraqi Security Forces Pivot From Offensive Warfare To Counter Insurgency

J. Ramirez writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

On November 17th, 2017, the Iraqi Army’s 7th and 8th  Divisions crossed the Euphrates at 7:30 a.m. local time and stormed the town of Rawa in Western Anbar. The fighting would last roughly five hours and the liberation of the town would represent the erasure of the so-called Caliphate due to Rawa being the last urban stronghold under the control of ISIS since 2014. Freeing Rawa meant that the so-called Islamic State  had been defeated militarily in Iraq. With the bulk of the terrorist forces pulling back northwards towards Badia Ba’aj, a steppe that is roughly 22,000 km2 in size and stretches from just south of the town of Ba’aj in Ninawa province to parts of the Euphrates river in Western Anbar, it had become necessary to launch a follow-up operation to destroy the terrorists’ hideouts deep in the desert.

Many wonder what comes next. The security situation in Iraq has slowly improved in recent years, thanks to coordination between local law enforcement and military intelligence to facilitate the capture of weapons bound for ISIS sleepers as well as neutralizing attacks as quickly as possible before the group inflicts maximum casualties. In liberated areas, ISIS has already reverted to insurgent tactics meant to harass local forces, but they are unable to regain control of villages due to the quick responsiveness of local Popular Mobilization Units after they are contacted by local residents. Ultimately, counter insurgency operations will serve as an effective method of degrading ISIS capabilities to the point that they will no longer pose a threat in each province (Ninawa, Salah al-Din, Diyala, Anbar).

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