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

Harnessing Iraq’s Deadly Array Of Armed Groups After ISIL

Sarhang Hamasaeed writes for War on the Rocks:

Earlier this week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared that a moment eagerly awaited by the Iraqi people had finally arrived: victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Government forces had rooted out ISIL from its last pockets along the Syrian border, Abadi told the nation. The defeat of the terrorist group as an organized force was, he said, in large part a result of Iraqis’ “unity.”

Certainly, the fight against ISIL put virtually all elements in the fractious nation on the same side for a few years. The hope in some quarters has been that after the group’s defeat, the unity displayed in the counter-ISIL effort would transfer to Iraqi national politics and lead the armed groups that were formed to stop the extremists to disband. The unfortunate reality, however, is that the chances for such an outcome have withered as victory approached. Far from fostering national cohesion, tensions that have long threatened Iraq have resurfaced, and in some respects intensified, during the struggle with ISIL.

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ISIS Could Rise Again

Benjamin Bahney and Patrick B. Johnston write for Foreign Affairs:

The dream of a liberation is now a reality,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi proclaimed last week, when his forces drove ISIS from a few final strongholds. Abadi’s declaration of victory did not seem unwarranted. After three years, Iraqi and Kurdish fighters, backed by an 80-country U.S.-led coalition, have reclaimed all of the territory ISIS once controlled in Iraq and the key cities it held in Syria. The Islamic State no longer has much of a claim to calling itself a state at all.

But the victory is incomplete—and not just when it comes to the challenges of ISIS-inspired lone-wolf attacks, foreign fighters returning home from Iraq and Syria, and  the persistence of ISIS franchises elsewhere. While such concerns are real, a more dangerous scenario also deserves some attention: ISIS could resurrect its caliphate where it was born, in Iraq and Syria. It has been planning for such a resurrection since at least 2016, and quietly preparing since well before losing Raqqa in October.

Most ominously, ISIS has a tried-and-true playbook for bringing itself back from near death. Just a few years ago, it managed to resurrect itself after apparent defeat. And the history of that resurrection should serve as a warning of what may be coming now.

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U.N. concerned about shelling in ethnically-mixed Iraqi town

Reuters reports:

The United Nations human rights office is seriously concerned about the shelling of residential areas in Iraq’s northern town of Tuz Khurmatu in which civilians were killed, a U.N. spokeswoman said on Friday.

It was not clear who was doing the shelling, which took place on Dec. 9 and 12 and came from the mountains overlooking the area, the spokeswoman, Liz Throssell, told a regular U.N. briefing in Geneva.

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Iraq Hangs 38 Members of IS, Qaida for ‘Terrorism’

AFP reports:

Iraq hanged 38 jihadists belonging to the Islamic State group or Al-Qaida for terrorism offences on Thursday in the southern city of Nasiriyah, provincial authorities said.

It was the largest number of executions in Iraq on a single day since September 25 when 42 people were put to death in the same prison.

"The prison administration executed on Thursday in the presence of Justice Minister Haidar al-Zameli, in Nasiriyah prison, 38 death row prisoners belonging to Al-Qaida or Daesh (IS) accused of terrorist activities," said Dakhel Kazem, a senior official in the provincial council.

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Iraq president calls for direct talks between Baghdad and Erbil

Mina Aldroubi writes for The National:

The president of Iraq on Thursday called for direct talks between Erbil and Baghdad to settle their longstanding disputes on the basis of the constitution.

Tensions between Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, increased after the autonomous region held a vote on Kurdish independence in September that overwhelmingly backed secession from the rest of Iraq. The Iraqi government responded by halting all international flights in and out of Kurdistan and sending troops to retake disputed areas held by Kurdish forces outside of the autonomous region, leaving Erbil grappling with an economic and political crisis.

Iraqi president Fuad Masoum held talks with two of his deputies, Nouri Al Maliki and Ayad Allawi, in Baghdad on Thursday to discuss the political and security situation in the country. The politicians debated Iraq’s upcoming elections, the federal budget law and the situation in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, a statement said. Kirkuk was one of the disputed areas retaken from Kurdish forces by Baghdad following the September referendum.

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Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitary chief seeks to put troops under national army

Reuters reports:

The commander of Iraq’s biggest Shi‘ite Muslim paramilitary group told its fighters on Thursday to take their orders from the national military and cut their ties with the group’s political wing.

Hadi al-Amiri, leader of the Iran-backed Badr Organisation, also called on the group’s fighters to withdraw from the cities under their control.

The move paves the way for Amiri to stand in parliamentary elections on May 12.

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For captured ISIS fighters in Iraq, justice is swift and conviction certain

Ash Gallagher writes for Yahoo News:

“Haya-al-Adel,” 20-year-old Hamza Ali Salim declared, an Arabic phrase for “Long live justice,” after he was handed a sentence of only 15 years in prison.

Salim was accused of illegally training with the Islamic State, preaching falsely at a mosque and persuading people to fight against the Iraqi army.

Now that the Iraqi government has declared the end of ISIS in Iraq following the recapture of western Anbar province, along the Syrian border, trials for ISIS militants and suspected members have begun.

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US military official: 50 ISIS foreign fighters captured since November

Ryan Browne and Barbara Starr write for CNN:

Approximately 50 foreign ISIS fighters have been captured in Syria and Iraq since the start of November, a US military official told CNN on Tuesday.

The official added that some of the fighters were captured as they were attempting to hide in civilian vehicles and were discovered by either the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces or Iraqi Security Forces.
The ISIS operatives came from several countries in the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia, the official said.

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Iraq PM warns Islamic State might erupt again somewhere else

AP reports:

Three days after declaring victory over the Islamic State group, Iraq's prime minister warns that the group's extremists might "erupt again somewhere else" without international cooperation in combatting the militants.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told reporters Tuesday that "we have managed to break them" in Iraq, but added that it's a worry for everyone that IS has "this unfortunate ability to recruit young people very quickly."

He said there must be an effort to "remove their grassroots in the region."

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As climate threats grow, Iraq battles a new enemy: Water shortages

Laurie Goering writes for Reuters:

After years battling Islamic State militants, Iraqi farmers – many of them military volunteers – are now returning to their homes and fields only to find a new threat: a shortage of water.

Construction of dams and other water-holding facilities in upstream Turkey and Iran, combined with increasingly erratic rainfall across the region, mean the amount of water flowing in key Iraqi rivers has fallen by at least 40 percent in recent decades, said Hassan Janabi, the country’s water resources minister.

Damage to Iraq’s own dams and other infrastructure from years of fighting - and from a recent earthquake - also is making water supplies more irregular, he said.

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