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

Iraq’s Next Big Challenge: Asserting Control Over Its Borders

Brandon Louis Wallace writes for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts:

Last month, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced a project for the development of Iraq’s first toll road along Highway 1. While some surely read the headline as a humble infrastructure project, the privatization and development of the highway reveals a larger, highly political confrontation.

Connecting Amman to Baghdad, Highway 1 is, for many, a requisite of commercial trade. When Daesh caused the road to seal its borders in 2015, Jordanian exports to Iraq fell from $1.16 Billion in 2014 to $690 million. For others, the road is a case study in corruption and disorder. Recently, PM Abadi himself publicly denounced the elements of organized crime in Western Anbar who extort drivers and bribe travelers for safe passage.

The privatization of the highway indicates a commitment from the central government to advance infrastructure and security.  But a larger question looms, with the end of an insurgency in sight, how does Iraq plan to assert control over its borders?

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The Battle for Mosul Enters Its Final Stage

Alan Taylor writes for The Atlantic:

Eight months ago, thousands of Iraqi and Kurdish troops, supported by the United States, France, Britain, and other western nations, began a massive operation to retake Iraq's second largest city of Mosul from ISIS militants. Now, after months of war, the Iraqi military says it has reached the final few days of the battle, having encircled an estimated 350 remaining Islamic State militants in Mosul’s Old City .

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U.N. goes stealth to help rebuild ISIS-ravaged Iraq

Kylie Atwood writes for CBS News:

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are close to tearing the city of Mosul out of ISIS' stranglehold. Once they do, the sprawling city will join dozens of other towns and villages that need to be rebuilt virtually from the ground up. A vast swath of northern Iraq is reeling from violence and destruction that has forced almost 900,000 people to flee their homes in the last year alone.

Efforts to bring those Iraqis back home are robust -- and unique; the United Nations has more than 800 stabilization efforts underway across the country -- work the U.N. has done in many countries following many conflicts. But this time, the work is aimed at building confidence in local governance as much as it is at rebuilding Iraq's shattered infrastructure.

U.N. equipment and supplies are not stamped with the instantly-recognizable blue globe insignia, and local Iraqi contractors are carrying out the work in the name of the Iraqi government, rather than foreign contractors. The U.N.'s new strategy is designed to minimize the promotion of its own work, and to instead quietly facilitate a "for the country, by the country" reconstruction.

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In Mosul’s Old City, Iraqi soldiers on foot fight last pocket of Islamic State

Stephen Kalin writes for Reuters:

Peering through a lookout hole at the Mosul frontline on Tuesday, Iraqi soldiers clad in black uniforms surveyed the last remaining patch of land controlled by Islamic State in the city's historic center.

Getting this deep into Mosul's Old City means soldiers from the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) must dismount from their armored Humvees and walk for 10 minutes down a maze of narrow alleyways which at some points are barely wider than a man.

Construction is so dense here that vehicles cannot pass and air strikes would likely cause too much collateral damage. The battle to retake Islamic State's de facto capital in Iraq has come down to a band of soldiers with assault rifles maneuvering on foot through the dusty heart of the city.

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Iraqi forces seize more ground in Mosul from Islamic State, PM sees victory soon

Stephen Kalin reports for Reuters:

Iraqi forces on Tuesday pushed towards the river side of Mosul's Old City, their key target in the eight-month campaign to capture Islamic State's de-facto capital, and Iraq's prime minister predicted victory very soon.

Iraqi forces, battling up to 350 militants dug in among civilians in the Old City, said federal police had dislodged IS insurgents from the Ziwani mosque and were only a few days away from ousting militants completely from the Old City.

"The victory announcement will come in a very short time," Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on his website on Monday evening.

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IS counterattacks in retaken parts of Mosul stall Iraq push

Susannah George reports for AP:

Counterattacks by Islamic State militants on the western edge of Mosul have stalled Iraqi forces' push in the Old City, the last IS stronghold in the battle, an Iraqi officer said Tuesday.

The attacks forced Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition to pull some assets away from the Old City to again clear the Yarmouk and Tanak neighborhoods, which were declared liberated of IS in May.

The assaults underscore the Sunni extremist group's resilience in the city, Iraq's second-largest, despite months of heavy fighting with Iraqi forces backed by U.S. air power.

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Immediate Lessons from the Battle of Mosul

Small Wars Journal writes:

The largest conventional land battle since the capture of Baghdad in 2003 has been ongoing since October 2016. The purpose of this article is to provide Army a first-look on lessons identified from the advisors engaged in supporting our Iraqi partners to excise the Da’esh malignancy from Iraq. This list is raw and provided to stimulate thought.

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Mosul battle to end in days as troops advance in Old City – Iraqi general

Marius Bosch and Khaled al-Ramahi write for Reuters:

The battle to wrest full control of the Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State will be over in a few days, the Iraqi military said on Monday, as elite counter-terrorism units fought militants among the narrow alleyways of the historic Old City.

An attempted fight-back by militants failed on Sunday night and Islamic State's grip on the city, once its de facto capital in Iraq, was weakened, a senior commander said.

"Only a small part (of the militants) remains in the city, specifically the Old City," Lieutenant General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi, commander of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) in Mosul, told Reuters.

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A Military Assessment of the Islamic State’s Evolving Theory of Victory

Michael J. Mooney writes for War on the Rocks:

Brace for it, America. Terrorist attacks like those seen over the past 19 months in Western Europe will soon be occurring within the borders of the United States. The Paris attacks of November 2015, the surge in Western Europe in the summer of 2016, and now in the United Kingdom all portend a very grim future. This essay posits that the Islamic State is at a strategic inflection point and has produced a new “theory of victory.”

Battered within the caliphate, its regional wilayats under increasing pressure, the Islamic State has turned to the final component of its being — an international “cloud” of aspirants — to conduct an asymmetric urban guerrilla campaign against the civilian populations of those countries aligned against it, specifically targeting Western nations. A steady bloodletting, they calculate, will keep the Islamic State in the 24-hour news cycle, send a message of relevance, strength, and defiance to the international community, and, most consequentially, erode popular support in these key countries for the coalition war against the Islamic State. Ultimately, the Islamic State leadership calculates, this theory of victory will lead to the ultimate achievement of their political objective.

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After ISIS counterattack, Iraqi forces continue bloody offensive in Mosul

AFP reports:

Iraqi forces launched a house-to-house search operation Monday in parts of west Mosul after a surprise attack by ISIS militants recently expelled from the area.

Members of the group are putting up fierce resistance as an Iraqi offensive for Mosul's Old City, where a few hundred militants are believed to be holed up, entered its second week.

On Sunday the ISIS forces launched a string of counter-attacks on the Tanak and Yarmuk neighbourhoods of west Mosul from which they had been routed, leaving several people dead, officials said.

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