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

War in the Arab world has devastated the region’s heritage

The Economist reports:

The Middle East is used to ruins. A millennium ago the “mad caliph” of Cairo, Hakim, ordered the levelling of all churches, including the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Jesus’s burial site. The Mongols sacked Baghdad in 1258, causing the Tigris to flow black from the ink of discarded books. Tamerlane spared nothing but hospitals and mosques as he went on what a contemporary chronicler called a “pilgrimage of destruction” across the region’s great cities. “She is empty, and void, and waste,” wailed Nahum, the biblical prophet, foreseeing the ruin of Nineveh at the hands of the Babylonians.

Still, the desolation of the past three years is probably the worst on record. According to the UN, half of the old city of Mosul, in Iraq, and a third of the old city of Aleppo, in Syria, are rubble. Hundreds of minarets, monasteries and monuments have been toppled. Of the world’s 38 endangered cultural-heritage sites, 22 are in the Middle East, says UNESCO, the UN’s cultural arm. “It’s Europe after the second world war,” says Michael Danti of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), which tracks the destruction.

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US helping clear ‘historic’ amount of explosives in Mosul

Lolita C. Baldor writes for AP:

The wires protruding from the small, misshapen stuffed animal revealed the deadly booby-trap tucked inside.

For the people of Mosul, the sophisticated bomb was a reminder of how difficult it will be to return to homes littered with hidden explosives by Islamic State militants and dotted with the remnants of undetonated bombs dropped by the U.S.-led coalition that still could blow up.

On Thursday, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said for the first time that the American military will help contractors and other officials locate unexploded bombs dropped by the coalition. U.S. Embassy officials have asked the coalition to declassify grid coordinates for bombs dropped in Iraq to help clear the explosives.

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Iraq acknowledges abuses committed against civilians in Mosul campaign

Reuters reports:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office said on Thursday a unit of the security forces committed "abuses" against civilians during the offensive to oust Islamic State (IS) insurgents from the city of Mosul.

His government began an investigation in May into a report by German newsmagazine Der Spiegel that included images of apparent torture taken by a freelance photographer embedded with the Interior Ministry's elite Emergency Response Division (ERD).

"The committee has concluded ... that clear abuses and violations were committed by members of the ERD," a statement from Abadi's office said. It added that the perpetrators would be prosecuted.

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For a Yazidi Woman, Justice for ISIS Crimes Is Still Elusive

Somini Sengupta writes for The New York Times:

Nadia Murad was 21 years old when, she says, Islamic State fighters abducted her, beat her and raped her. Her offense: belonging to the minority Yazidi community, whom the Islamic State regards as infidels. Her cause for the last two years: demanding justice for the Islamic State’s atrocities.

This week, Ms. Murad clinched a small, but important victory. Her country, Iraq, agreed to let the Security Council appoint a panel of independent investigators to gather evidence of the most serious crimes committed by the Islamic State, and not just those against Yazidis. Lacking that, the Security Council would have had to adopt a resolution to create such a panel.

Still to be resolved is where and how those crimes will be prosecuted, and how to make sure those trials are credible and not displays of victor’s justice.

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Iran general slams Iraq referendum plan during Erdogan talks

AFP reports:

Iran's Armed Forces chief of staff said Wednesday after talks with Turkey's president that a referendum on independence in Iraq's Kurdish region would trigger conflict and negative consequences for the entire region.

General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri's remarks, carried by Iran's official IRNA news agency, underlined the firm opposition shared in Tehran and Ankara to the poll next month.

"Both sides stressed that if the referendum would be held, it will be the basis for the start of a series of tensions and conflicts inside Iraq, the consequences of which will affect neighbouring countries," Bagheri was quoted as saying.

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With a wary eye on Iran, Saudi and Iraqi leaders draw closer

Ahmed Rasheed and Sylvia Westall write for Reuters:

It was an unusual meeting: An Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim cleric openly hostile to the United States sat in a palace sipping juice at the invitation of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the Sunni kingdom that is Washington's main ally in the Middle East.

For all the implausibility, the motivations for the July 30 gathering in Jeddah between Moqtada al-Sadr and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman run deep, and centre on a shared interest in countering Iranian influence in Iraq.

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Powering west Mosul’s water plants

Hugo de Vries writes for UNDP:

Mosul was declared fully liberated by the Prime Minister of Iraq in early July, and the difficult work of rebuilding has begun. More than 700,000 civilians are still away from their homes – waiting to restart their lives. Through its Funding Facility for Stabilization, UNDP has been implementing projects in Mosul in close proximity to the front line since late 2016. More than 300 are already under way and hundreds more are starting in coming weeks.

We’ve had to find quick pragmatic solutions for difficult problems. The New Water Treatment Plant (al-Ayman al-Jadeda), which provides safe drinking water to half the population in western Mosul, is a good example.  Rehabilitating the facility has involved fixing pumps and internal machinery as well as ensuring a predicable supply of power. After surveying local capacities, teams on the ground agreed on a pragmatic division of labour. With the Government providing technical guidance, the Danish Refugee Council replaced the transformers, which they had on hand, while UNDP strung a high voltage line across the Tigris river from eastern Mosul, where the Government has already restored parts of the power grid, to the water plant.

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New life amid the ruins of Mosul’s maternity hospital

Raya Jalabi writes for Reuters:

As yet unnamed twin babies lie in an incubator in a run-down room in Mosul’s main maternity hospital. Less than two weeks old, they are two of seven newborns crammed into a makeshift premature baby ward.

Born just three weeks after Iraqi forces declared that they had finally recaptured the last part of the city from Islamic State, the twins won’t know what it’s like to grow up under the jihadists' draconian rule. But they are lucky in more ways than one – had they been born months earlier, their chances of survival would have been slim as the hospital’s neo-natal wings had been burned down by the militants.

Al-Khansa Hospital in East Mosul may be a shell of its former self but it is still the city's main government-run maternity facility. Last month alone, despite severe shortages of medicines and equipment, it delivered nearly 1,400 babies.

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Iraq asks UN to collect evidence to prosecute Islamic State

Edith M. Lederer writes for AP:

Iraq is asking the U.N. Security Council for assistance in collecting evidence to prosecute extremists from the Islamic State group for possible crimes against humanity.

Iraq's Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres circulated Wednesday that his government and the United Kingdom are working on a draft Security Council resolution seeking assistance.

It was sent more than five months after human rights lawyer Amal Clooney urged Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to send a letter to the council so it can vote to set up an investigation into crimes by the group in Iraq.

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Suicide attacker kills seven Iraqi soldiers near city of Baiji

Reuters reports:

Seven Iraqi soldiers were killed on Wednesday when a suicide attacker tried to infiltrate a security headquarters near the northern city of Baiji where Islamic State is entrenched in nearby mountain areas, security sources said.

Around five assailants attacked the compound where police and army troops are based. One blew up his explosives vest at the entrance while the other four clashed with guards for around three hours, said army colonel Mohammed al-Assadi.

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