The geopolitical and military crisis posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) can be dealt with efficiently, with a minimum of U.S. involvement. ISIS, an extremely radical al-Qaeda-inspired group, now threatens Baghdad and further destabilization in the Middle East. After rapidly taking control of large areas of northern Syria and central Iraq—even declaring a new Islamic state—ISIS’s successes have also increased its vulnerability. This should not be difficult to exploit, since American interests accord with those of the surrounding states of Syria, Iran, Kurdistan (de facto), Turkey and the Baghdad Iraqi government.
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Suicide bombers marched through the streets here last month. Soldiers of the Mahdi Army paraded through Baghdad’s Sadr city in black uniforms and face masks, bright yellow sticks of mock dynamite strapped to their chests. The militia, loyal to the militant Shia religious leader Muqtada al Sadr, vowed to defend Baghdad from the ISIS-led Sunni insurgency tearing through the country’s north.
Iraqi forces have withdrawn from the rebel-held northern Iraqi city of Tikrit after a new push to retake the city met heavy resistance, soldiers involved in the operation said.
Government troops and allied Shia volunteer fighters were forced to retreat just before sunset on Tuesday to a base 4km south after coming under heavy mortar shelling and sniper fire, the sources said. The attempt to retake Tikrit, which fell to Sunni fighters led by the Islamic State group on June 12, began two-and-a-half weeks ago.
Early this year Sunni Arab worshippers in the Iraqi city of Fallujah were surprised to see an armed man in sunglasses, instead of the regular sheikh, ascend the mosque pulpit. The visibly agitated moderate sheikh stood aside, silenced by an Islamist militant preaching violence against Iraq’s security forces.
“The man was wearing a dishdasha and on top of that, a shoulder holster containing a gun,” said one worshipper who asked not to be identified. “The sheikh appeared extremely agitated. When the man delivered the sermon the sheikh kept staring at the floor like he didn’t want to hear it.”
The group now calling itself the Islamic State rampaged across the border between Syria and Iraq a month ago and has since declared a caliphate across a swathe of the Middle East from Aleppo to the outskirts of Baghdad.
But if its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has proclaimed himself ruler of all the world's Muslims, has his eyes on extending his caliphate south, he will face a far more formidable frontier at the border with Saudi Arabia.
Irbil, Kurdistan, northern Iraq today is a gleaming city growing daily toward the sky. But the soul of this city, and of Kurdistan, is held in a special place high above today’s frenetic development and streets filled with new luxury cars.
More than 4,000 years ago, maybe longer, people in what is now Kurdistan, looked up at a steep hill and decided that it would be the perfect place to build a citadel, and within it, establish a settlement.
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have moved into parts of northern Iraq abandoned by the army in the face of an advance by jihadist-led rebels. The BBC's Shaimaa Khalil met members of an elite female unit as they prepared to go to the frontline.
Morning assembly is in full swing at a military facility on the outskirts of Sulaimaniya, a city in the autonomous Kurdistan Region. The troops look serious and focused despite the scorching heat of the Iraqi summer. Standing straight in their fatigues with Kalashnikovs on their shoulders, this looks no different than any other training camp.
Iraqi lawmakers broke two weeks of deadlock Tuesday and elected a moderate Sunni as speaker of parliament, taking the first step toward forming a new government that is widely seen as crucial to confronting militants who have overrun much of the country.
Still, it was not clear whether lawmakers had reached a larger deal that would also include an agreement on the most contentious decision - the choice for prime minister. The incumbent, Nouri al-Maliki, has ruled the country since 2006, but is under intense pressure to step aside. So far, he has insisted on staying for a third term.
Politics makes strange bedfellows, especially in the shifting sands of the Middle East. This has never been more true than it is right now in Iraq, where the United States faces a complex strategic challenge that is blurring the lines between friend and foe. In seeking to quell the unrest, the United States must balance its own interests with those of a diverse cast of players that includes Iraq, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, an unpredictable and violent jihadist front and others.
Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani was in Ankara Monday for important talks on oil exports and revenues, officials said. Safeen Dizayee, spokesman of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), told Rudaw that the visit could mean Kurdish civil servants finally getting paid at the end of this month, after going without salaries since Baghdad froze budget payments early this year.
“We requested that Turkey import more Kurdish oil,” Dizayee said. He revealed that current exports were 120,000 barrels per day (bpd), and that “we will try to raise the rate to 400,000 bpd by the end of the year.”