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

After Mosul: The Iraqi towns still under IS control

Mina Al-Lami writes for BBC News:

With Iraqi forces close to retaking full control of the city of Mosul, so-called Islamic State (IS) is about to lose its last - and largest - urban bastion in Iraq.

Elsewhere in Iraq, though, the jihadist group still controls a number of towns.

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Anger in Mosul as Islamic State destroys historic mosque

Kawa Omar and Ahmed Rasheed write for Reuters:

The leaning al-Hadba minaret that towered over Mosul for 850 years lay in ruins on Thursday, demolished by retreating Islamic State militants, but Iraq's prime minister said the act marked their final defeat in the city.

"In the early morning, I climbed up to the roof of my house and was stunned to see the Hadba minaret had gone," Nashwan, a day-laborer who lives near the mosque, said by phone. "I felt I had lost a son of mine."

His words echoed the shock and anger of many over the destruction of the Grand al-Nuri Mosque along with its famous minaret, known affectionately as "the hunchback" by Iraqis.

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Iran begins exporting gas to Iraq

AP reports:

Iranian media are saying the country has begun exporting gas to neighboring Iraq.

The Thursday report by the semi-official Fars news agency said the exports began late Wednesday through a pipeline straight to Baghdad. According to the report, the daily flow will start at around 7 billion cubic meters per day and eventually grow to 35 billion cubic meters per day.

The pipeline’s inauguration came a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited Iran.

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IS Destroys Iconic Al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul

AP reports:

The Islamic State group destroyed Mosul's al-Nuri mosque and its iconic leaning minaret known as al-Hadba when fighters detonated explosives inside the structures Wednesday night, Iraq's Ministry of Defense said.

The mosque — also known as Mosul's Great Mosque — is where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a so-called Islamic caliphate in 2014 shortly after the city was overrun by the militants and was seen as a key symbolic prize in the fight for Iraq's second largest city. The minaret that leaned like Italy's Tower of Pisa stood for more than 840 years.

In a statement posted online after the Ministry of Defense statement, IS claimed an airstrike carried out by the United States destroyed the mosque and minaret.

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Iraqi forces advance on Mosul mosque where IS declared caliphate

Marius Bosch writes for Reuters:

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces on Wednesday began a push towards the mosque in Mosul where Islamic State declared a self-styled caliphate three years ago, military officials said.

The forces had encircled the jihadist group's stronghold in the Old City of Mosul, where the medieval Grand al-Nuri Mosque is located, on Tuesday, they said.

The Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) were 200-300 meters (yards) away from the mosque, an Iraqi military statement said, a view supported by a senior commander of the international coalition fighting Islamic State.

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Thousands Fleeing Kept Waiting Near Front Line

Human Rights Watch reports:

The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Peshmerga forces are stopping thousands of civilians fleeing territory held by the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) for up to three months at checkpoints, including on the front lines, apparently based on general security concerns, and in many cases preventing their access to humanitarian assistance, Human Rights Watch said today. The KRG is obliged to facilitate rapid and unimpeded humanitarian assistance to all civilians in need and to allow those fleeing to reach safety.

The civilians, including entire families, have been fleeing Hawija, 60 kilometers south of Mosul, and Tal Afar, 55 kilometers west of Mosul, which have been under the control of ISIS since June 2014. There are still 80,000 civilians in Hawija and another 20,000 in Tal Afar, United Nations staff told Human Rights Watch.

“All armed forces in Iraq should be doing their utmost to help civilians reach safety, and to get food, water and medicine,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The situation will become even more urgent when anti-ISIS forces begin operations to retake Hawija and Tal Afar.”

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The quest for an independent Kurdistan enters a new phase

Ishaan Tharoor writes for The Washington Post:

For many Iraqi Kurds, the time has come. Earlier this month, Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, said a nonbinding referendum on independence will be held Sept. 25. Officials say they want those living within the area administered by the KRG, people in long-disputed (and oil-rich) territories now occupied by Kurdish fighters, and even members of the far-flung Kurdish diaspora to all cast ballots on the question of whether there should be an independent Kurdistan.

For Barzani and his allies, it's the culmination of decades of both political struggle and accommodation. For the central government in Baghdad, it's an unwelcome move that could further undermine their already fragile state. And for Iraq's neighbors and the United States, it only adds to their geopolitical headaches in a part of the world brimming with messy conflicts.

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Path to safety from besieged Mosul leads through hole in wall

Erik De Castro writes for Reuters:

We arrived at the frontline with the 9th Iraqi army division and went up on a rooftop to take pictures of the Grand al-Nuri mosque and its landmark minaret, still in the hands of Islamic State in western Mosul.

That's when we spotted civilians fleeing the tightening noose around the Islamic State militants by scrambling through a hole in a wall of a school across the road.

The day was blazing hot, with temperatures reaching 40 Celsius and no breeze, and the people emerging from western Mosul into the relative safety of government-held territory were suffering from heat exhaustion.

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U.S. shoots down drone close to Iraqi-Syrian border – statement

Reuters reports:

The U.S.-led coalition said on Tuesday it had shot down an armed "pro-Syrian regime" drone that had been bearing down on its forces near a garrison in Syria's southeast, and a Western intelligence source identified the aircraft as Iranian.

It marked the second time in three days U.S. forces have shot down an aircraft operated by Damascus or its allies in Syria, and reflected mounting tensions over a stretch of the Syrian-Iraqi frontier where U.S. forces have established a base.

In a statement, U.S. forces said the drone was fired on after it "displayed hostile intent and advanced on coalition forces". The Western intelligence source said it was "unquestionably Iranian". "They are testing the limits," the source told Reuters without elaborating.

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Military Areas of Control in the Waning Days of Islamic State

Philip Issa writes for AP:

The Islamic State group is in retreat across Syria and Iraq, and the contours of a new conflict among the array of parties battling it are already starting to appear.

The U.S. military shot down a Syrian government warplane on Sunday, saying it had targeted an American-allied Kurdish force that is battling the extremists in their de facto capital, Raqqa. That led Russia, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, to warn that it would target U.S.-led coalition planes flying west of the Euphrates River.

Another front is shaping up on the ground below, with Assad’s forces, which are also battling the Islamic State group, reaching the Iraqi border in the distant east. There they appear set to link up with Iranian-backed militias, establishing a vital land corridor from Damascus to Tehran.

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