Thursday, June 12, 2014

Iraq disintegrating as insurgents advance; Kurds seize Kirkuk --- IRBIL, Iraq — Iraq was on the brink of disintegration Thursday as al-Qaeda-inspired fighters swept through northern Iraq toward Baghdad and Kurdish soldiers seized the city of Kirkuk without a fight. -- Lawmakers gathered at the Iraqi parliament to discuss the declaration of a state of emergency, a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki assured Iraqis that the insurgents’ gains were temporary and would soon be reversed by the Iraqi army. -- But after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured fresh territory and set its sights on Baghdad, Iraq seemed to be fast slipping out of government control. -- In Washington, President Obama expressed concern about the situation and said Iraq is “going to need more help from us” and from the international community. He said his administration was trying to determine the most effective type of assistance. -- “I don’t rule out anything, because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria,” Obama told reporters after a White House meeting with visiting Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. -- “I think it’s fair to say that . . . there will be some short-term, immediate things that need to be done militarily, and our national security team is looking at all the options,” he said. “But this should be also a wake-up call for the Iraqi government” about the need for political accommodation between the country’s Shiite Muslim majority and the Sunni minority, he added. -- Iraqi state television claimed that government forces recaptured the north-central city of Tikrit on Thursday, a day after ISIS said it seized the home town of former Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein. The group, an al-Qaeda offshoot, asserted, however, that it has completely surrounded the city of Samarra, south of Tikrit and just 70 miles north of Baghdad, leaving the situation on the ground unclear. -- The semiautonomous Kurdish government said its pesh merga forces took control of the city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, after Iraqi security forces there fled rather than fight. The capture of Kirkuk follows the seizure by the (ISIS) on Monday of the important northern city of Mosul, putting northern Iraq beyond the central government’s authority. -- A top leader in ISIS, a radical Sunni Muslim group that U.S. forces spent eight years trying to defeat, urged fighters to press on to Baghdad, where he said there are “scores to be settled” with the Shiite-led government. - More, Washingtonpost


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