Now Tikrit Falls To Islamist Terrorists: Hundreds Of Thousands Flee As Second Iraqi City Is Seized By The Extremist Warlord Who Is More ‘Virulent And Violent Than Bin Laden’, And Will Baghdad Be Next? – Daily Mail
Iraq was under siege yesterday after Al Qaeda-inspired jihadists seized control of Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit and closed in on the country’s biggest oil refinery.
Coming less than 24 hours after the country’s second city Mosul was overrun by the militants, there were fears that the loss of Tikrit could open the way for an assault on Baghdad just 80 miles to the south.
British security firms working in the capital are said to have been put on high alert amid fears that insurgents will target the ‘Green Zone’ where most of the foreign embassies are based.
As well as Mosul and Tikrit, several other northern towns were reported to have fallen to the spectacular offensive by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
And the fundamentalist fighters, led by former preacher Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, were today expected to take over the massive Baiji refinery after 250 security personnel abandoned their posts rather than fight.
ISIL was also battling security forces near the town of Samarra, 70 miles north of Baghdad on the main highway to Mosul, and home to a revered Shia shrine.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked parliament to declare a state of emergency to give him more powers as he called on the international community for help.
The sense of unravelling chaos in the country, from which American troops withdrew in 2011, was compounded this evening by a suicide bomber killing 16 in a Shi’te slum in the country’s capital Baghdad.
As night fell, several hundred gunmen were in Tikrit, with clashes still taking place between the insurgents and military units on its outskirts, according to city officials.
While the West has so far refused to assist with military support, the US has said it will come to the aid of the 500,000 people who have fled fierce fighting in Iraq.
Denouncing ISIS as ‘one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world, Stuart Jones, the nominee to be the next US envoy to Baghdad, told US politicians the United States ‘will continue to monitor the situation closely, and will work with our international partners to try to meet the needs of those who have been displaced’.
Today UK Foreign Secretary William Hague played down any suggestion of sending troops to support the Iraqi military.
The White House National Security Council said only: ‘President Obama promised to responsibly end the war in Iraq and he did’.
A country into which America poured so much blood and money faces the prospect of dealing with this major new military threat by itself in light of Western governments’ insistence that the matter is not their concern.
However, international momentum appeared to be turning as Turkey called a meeting of Nato officials in light of concerns over security and its captured citizens.
Militants seized 48 Turks from the Turkish consulate Mosul today including the consul-general, three children and several members of Turkey’s special forces. 28 Turkish lorry drivers were already being held.
Tonight Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned it will retaliate if any of its citizens and diplomats are harmed.
‘Right now we are engaged in calm crisis management, considering our citizens’ security. This should not be misunderstood. Any harm to our citizens and staff would be met with the harshest retaliation,’ he said.
The rampage through Mosul – which is near the Turkish and Syrian border – by the black banner-waving insurgents was a heavy defeat for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as he tries to hold onto power, and highlighted the growing strength of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The group has been advancing in both Iraq and neighboring Syria, capturing territory in a campaign to set up a militant enclave straddling the border.
This afternoon the Al Qaeda-inspired militants have seized control of Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit.
Iraqi security officials confirmed Tikrit was under the control of Isis and said the provincial governor was missing.
Tikrit, the capital of Salahuddin province, is 80 miles north of Baghdad.
The insurgents expanded their offensive closer to the Iraqi capital as soldiers and security forces abandoned their posts following clashes.
A woman in Baghdad said: ‘People are buying up food and may not come to work tomorrow because they think the situation is getting to get worse.’
A Mosul businessman who has fled the city of Mosul told the Guardian: ‘The city fell like a plane without an engine.’
Another resident explained that after government forces began to desert the city they felt compelled to leave in case the government started to bomb the city to force out the militants.
Today the governor of an Iraqi province said authorities are determined to recapture the northern city.
The Ninevah province governor, Atheel al-Nujaifi, said authorities have a plan to restore security and defeat the militants raiding government buildings, pushing out security forces and capturing military vehicles as thousands of residents fled.
Al-Nujaifi also accused senior commanders of the security forces of providing Baghdad with false information about the situation in Mosul and demanding that they should stand trial.
He also says smaller armed groups joined the al Qaeda breakaway group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant during the fight for control the city.
This morning Iraq’s foreign minister said Baghdad will cooperate with Kurdish forces to flush out militants from Mosul.
‘There will be closer cooperation between Baghdad and the regional Kurdistan government to work together and flush out these foreign fighters,’ Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari said on the sidelines of a EU-Arab League meeting in Athens.
He called on all Iraqi leaders to come together to face the ‘serious, mortal’ threat to the country.
‘The response has to be soon. There has to be a quick response to what has happened,’ he said.
Militants have seized the Turkish consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and efforts are under way to ensure the safety of diplomatic staff, according to two Turkish government sources.
‘Certain militant groups in Mosul have been directly contacted to ensure the safety of diplomatic staff,’ a Turkish government source said, adding there was no immediate information on the status of the diplomats.
Last night militants advanced into the oil refinery town of Baiji, setting the court house and police station on fire and today they are unconfirmed reports that the town ‘in flames’.
They said around 250 guards at the refinery had agreed to withdraw to another town after the militants sent a delegation of local tribal chiefs to persuade them to pull out.
Baiji resident Jasim al-Qaisi, said the militants also warned local police and soldiers not to challenge them.
‘Yesterday at sunset some gunmen contacted the most prominent tribal sheikhs in Baiji via cellphone and told them: ‘We are coming to die or control Baiji, so we advise you to ask your sons in the police and army to lay down their weapons and withdraw before (Tuesday) evening prayer’.’
Militants entered Baiji late on Tuesday evening in around 60 vehicles, releasing prisoners in the town.
Baiji refinery is Iraq’s biggest, supplying oil products to most of the country’s provinces. A worker there said the morning shift had not been allowed to take over and the night shift was still working.
The United States condemned the siege ‘in the strongest possible terms.’
White House spokesman Josh Earnest deplored ‘despicable’ acts of violence targeting civilians in Mosul. Mr Earnest said the group has gained strength from the situation in neighbouring Syria.
But the White House is not saying what additional military assistance the US might provide Iraq in response to the siege. Mr Earnest said the US is committed to its partnership with Baghdad but is urging Iraq’s government to take steps to be more inclusive of all Iraqis.
There were no immediate estimates on how many people were killed in the four-day assault, a stark reminder of the reversals in Iraq since U.S. forces left in late 2011.
Earlier this year, Islamic State fighters took control of Fallujah, and government forces have been unable to take it back.
Mosul is a much bigger, more strategic prize. The city and surrounding Ninevah province, which is on the doorstep of Iraq’s relatively prosperous Kurdish region, are a major export route for Iraqi oil and a gateway to Syria.
‘This isn’t Fallujah. This isn’t a place you can just cordon off and forget about,’ said Michael Knights, a regional security analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. ‘It’s essential to Iraq.’
Al-Maliki pressed parliament to declare a state of emergency that would grant him greater powers, saying the public and government must unite ‘to confront this vicious attack, which will spare no Iraqi.’
Legal experts said these powers could include imposing curfews, restricting public movements and censoring the media.
Iraqi state television today reported that its legislators would meet on Thursday.
Parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni from Mosul, called the rout ‘a disaster by any standard.’
Regaining Mosul poses a daunting challenge for the Shiite prime minister.
The city of about 1.4 milliion has a Sunni Muslim majority and many in the community are already deeply embittered against his Shiite-led government.
During the nearly nine-year American presence in the country, Mosul was a major stronghold for al-Qaeda. U.S. and Iraqi forces carried out repeated offensives there, regaining a semblance of control but never routing the insurgents entirely.
‘It’s going to be difficult to reconstitute the forces to clear and hold the city,’ Knights said. ‘There aren’t a lot of spare forces around Iraq.’
Today UK Foreign Secretary William Hague told ITV News the civilian population of Mosul must be protected.
He added: ‘We left Iraq in the hands of elected Iraqi leaders with armed forces, with their own security forces, so it is primarily for them to deal with.’
‘It’s very important that Iraqis take the leadership and responsibility of dealing with this, working with neighbouring countries.
National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the U.S. would continue to help the Iraqi government fight ISIS.
‘President Obama promised to responsibly end the war in Iraq and he did,’ she said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest deplored what he called the ‘despicable’ acts of violence against civilians in Mosul.
He said Washington is committed to its partnership with Baghdad but is urging the government to take steps to be more inclusive of all Iraqis.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attacks across Iraq in recent days ‘that have killed and wounded scores of civilians.’
He urged all political leaders ‘to show national unity against the threats facing Iraq, which can only be addressed on the basis of the constitution and within the democratic political process,’ according to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
Insurgents and Iraqi troops have been fighting for days in Mosul, but the security forces’ hold appeared to collapse late Monday night and early Tuesday.
Gunmen overran the Ninevah provincial government building – a key symbol of state control – Monday evening, and the governor fled the city.
The fighters stormed police stations, bases and prisons, capturing weapons and freeing inmates. Security forces melted away, abandoning many of their posts, and militants seized large caches of weapons.
They took control of the city’s airport and captured helicopters, as well as an airbase 60 kilometers (40 miles) south of the city, the parliament speaker said.
Later Tuesday, Islamic State fighters took over the large town of Hawija, 125 kilometers (75 miles) south of Mosul, according to officials there.
On Tuesday, the militants appeared to hold much of the eastern half of Mosul, which is bisected by the Tigris River. Residents said fighters were raising the black banners that are the emblem of the Islamic State.
Video taken from a car driving through the streets of Mosul and posted online showed burning vehicles in the streets, black-masked gunmen in pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns, and residents walking with suitcases.
ISIL supporters posted photos on social media showing fighters next to Humvees and other U.S.-made military vehicles captured from Iraqi forces.
The video and photos appeared authentic and matched Associated Press reporting of the events.
A government employee who lives about a mile from the provincial headquarters, Umm Karam, said she left with her family Tuesday morning.
‘The situation is chaotic inside the city and there is nobody to help us,’ she said ‘We are afraid. … There is no police or army in Mosul.’ She spoke on condition she be identified only by her nickname for fear of her safety.
An estimated 500,000 people have fled Mosul, according to a U.N. spokesman in New York, citing the International Organization for Migration.
The spokesman said aid organizations hope to reach those in need with food, water, sanitation and other essential supplies as soon as the volatile security situation permits.
The Islamic State has ramped up its insurgency over the past two years, presenting itself as the Sunni community’s champion against al-Maliki’s government
The group was once al-Qaida’s branch in Iraq, but under its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi it has escalated its ambitions, sending fighters into Syria to join the rebellion against President Bashar Assad.
Its jihadists became notorious as some of the most ruthless fighters in the rebellion – and other rebels turned against it, accusing it of trying to hijack the movement.
Al-Qaida’s central command, angered over its intervention in Syria, threw the group out of the terrorist network.
But it has been making gains on both sides of the border. In Syria, it took control of an eastern provincial capital of Raqqa, and in the past month it has launched an offensive working its way toward the Iraqi border.
Islamic State fighters in eastern Syria crossed into Iraq to help their brethren in the Mosul area, activists on the Syrian side said.
They tried to take the border crossing itself, but Kurdish fighters on either side fended them off. The militants were able to seize the nearest Iraqi town to the border, Rabeea, the activists said.
The group earlier this year took over Fallujah and parts of Sunni-dominated Anbar province, and has stepped up its long-running campaign of bombings and other violence in Baghdad and elsewhere.
The Mosul crisis comes as al-Maliki is working to assemble a coalition after elections in late April, relying even more on Shiite parties. Sunnis and Kurds have grown increasingly disillusioned with al-Maliki, accusing him of dominating power.
The autonomous Kurdish region in the north has its own armed forces – the peshmerga – and on Tuesday, the region’s prime minister suggested his willingness to intervene beyond the formal borders of the self-ruled enclave.
That could be politically explosive, since the Mosul region lies on Kurdistan’s doorstep, has a significant Kurdish population, and the Kurds claim parts of the area.
Militant gains in territories the Kurds consider theirs could push them ‘to send in their own troops to protect communities they consider as part of their jurisdiction,’ said Jordan Perry, an analyst at risk analysis firm Maplecroft.
Kurdistan’s prime minister, Nechirvan Barzani, sharply criticized Baghdad’s handling of the Mosul crisis, saying the Kurds had tried unsuccessfully to work with Iraqi security forces to protect the city.
‘Tragically, Baghdad adopted a position which has prevented the establishment of this cooperation,’ he said in a statement.
Barzani urged the Kurds to aid those displaced from Mosul and called on the U.N. refugee agency to help with the relief effort.
He said the peshmerga are prepared to handle security in areas outside the regional government’s jurisdiction – presumably referring to parts around Mosul inhabited by Kurds that are disputed with the central government.
Kurdish official Razgar Khoushnaw said about 10,000 Mosul residents took refuge Tuesday in the Kurdish province of Irbil, while security officials in neighboring Dahuk province said 5,000 displaced people were let in there.
Far larger numbers of people are believed to have fled Mosul for other communities in the Ninevah countryside.
I don’t get it, Obama drones Pakistan and Yemen like it’s going out of style but he won’t do it in Iraq?
WASHINGTON – As the threat from Sunni militants in western Iraq escalated last month, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki secretly asked the Obama administration to consider carrying out airstrikes against extremist staging areas, according to Iraqi and American officials.
But Iraq’s appeals for military assistance have so far been rebuffed by the White House, which has been reluctant to open a new chapter in a conflict that President Obama has insisted was over when the United States withdrew the last of its forces from Iraq in 2011.
The swift capture of Mosul by militants aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has underscored how the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have converged into one widening regional insurgency with fighters coursing back and forth through the porous border between the two countries. But it has also cast a spotlight on the limits the White House has imposed on the use of American power in an increasingly violent and volatile region.
A spokeswoman for the National Security Council, Bernadette Meehan, declined to comment on Mr. Maliki’s requests and the administration’s response, saying in a statement, “We are not going to get into details of our diplomatic discussions, but the government of Iraq has made clear that they welcome our support” in combating the Islamic extremists. […]
Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s foreign minister, last year floated the idea that armed American-operated Predator or Reaper drones might be used to respond to the expanding militant network in Iraq. American officials dismissed that suggestion at the time, saying that the request had not come from Mr. Maliki.
By March, however, American experts who visited Baghdad were being told that Iraq’s top leaders were hoping that American air power could be used to strike the militants’ staging and training areas inside Iraq, and help Iraq’s beleaguered forces stop them from crossing into Iraq from Syria.
“Iraqi officials at the highest level said they had requested manned and unmanned U.S. airstrikes this year against ISIS camps in the Jazira desert,” said Kenneth M. Pollack, a former C.I.A. analyst and National Security Council official, who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and who visited Baghdad in early March. ISIS is the acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as the militant group is known.
As the Sunni insurgents have grown in strength those requests have persisted. In a May 11 meeting with American diplomats and Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the head of the Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East, Mr. Maliki said that he would like the United States to provide Iraq with the ability to operate drones. But if the United States was not willing to do that, Mr. Maliki indicated he was prepared to allow the United States to carry out strikes using warplanes or drones.
According to U.S. sources who spoke with The Blaze reporter Sara Carter, the United States Embassy in Baghdad is preparing plans to facilitate the evacuation of that massive facility as Islamic militant groups continue their blitz across that country.
“The U.S. official told TheBlaze that the U.S. Embassy, United Nations and other foreign organizations with a presence in Iraq are ‘preparing contingency plans to evacuate employees,’” The Blaze reported.
A counterterrorism expert added that the level of violence in Iraq is at levels “not seen since 2007,” just prior to the implementation of the “surge” strategy which temporarily pacified the growing insurgency in that country.
The $750 million complex is the world’s largest foreign embassy facility and was built to house tens of thousands of government employees and contractors, but it has not been fully staffed since the end of 2013.
The al-Qaeda-linked group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) have already captured the cities of Mosul, Tikrit, and Fallujah, and may be setting their sights on the Iraqi capital. The group’s aim is to create a pan-Islamic state that stretches from the Mediterranean coast to the Iranian border.
The State Department has warned American citizens against traveling to Iraq amid the escalating violence.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a radical offshoot of al Qaeda, has taken control of Iraq’s second largest city.
Iraqi police and security forces reportedly fled Mosul prior to the attack, leaving the facilities of the city open for plunder. Mosul was a key area of focus for U.S. forces in an effect to stabilize Iraq, and large amounts of military hardware was left in the city for the Iraqis.
Iraq’s parliament speaker said that ISIS took control of the city’s airport and obtained helicopters. ISIS also took control of U.S. Humvees, which they are now proceeding to send to Syria.
The Humvees are reportedly in fine condition. The vehicles would be a significant upgrade to the current equipment that ISIS has, and it further increase their ability to carry out attacks in both Iraq and Syria.
One interesting note is that the U.S. military gave these Humvees to the Iraqi military, which was long ago infiltrated by Iran-backed groups that killed Americans.
Yet, ISF/Iraq Army was fully infiltrated by Iran-backed groups which killed US troops-and they were given those humvees. (Part 2)
12:27 PM – 10 Jun 2014
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Upwards of 150,000 people are now fleeing from Mosul towards Baghdad or Iraqi Kurdistan. U.S. trained Iraqi soldiers are apparently leaving behind their uniforms too as they flee from ISIS.
The al-Qaida-inspired group that captured two key Sunni-dominated cities in Iraq this week vowed on Thursday to march on to Baghdad, raising fears about the Shiite-led government’s ability to slow the assault following the insurgents’ lightning gains.
Fighters from the militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant took Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit on Wednesday as soldiers and security forces abandoned their posts and yielded ground once controlled by U.S. troops.
That seizure followed the capture of much of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, the previous day. The group and its allies among local tribesmen also hold the city of Fallujah and other pockets of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province to the west of Baghdad.
Baghdad does not appear to be in imminent danger from a similar assault, although Sunni insurgents have stepped up car bombings and suicide attacks in the capital in recent months.
The capital, with its large Shiite population, would be a far harder target for the militants. So far, Islamic State fighters have stuck to the Sunni heartland and former Sunni insurgent strongholds where people are already alienated by the Shiite-led government over allegations of discrimination and mistreatment. The militants also would likely meet far stronger resistance, not only from government forces but by Shiite militias if they tried to advance on the capital.
In contrast, online video posted Thursday showed some Tikrit residents celebrating the militant takeover. As Islamic State fighters drove through largely empty streets in a captured military Humvee and a pickup truck mounted with an anti-aircraft gun, what appeared to be a few dozen people shouted “God is great,” and celebratory gunfire could be heard. The video appeared authentic and was consistent with AP reporting.
The Islamic State’s spokesman vowed to take the fight into the capital at the heart of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government. In a sign of the group’s confidence, he even boasted that its fighters will take the southern Shiite cities of Karbala and Najaf, which hold two of the holiest shrines for Shiite Muslims.
“We will march toward Baghdad because we have an account to settle there,” he said in an audio recording posted on militant websites commonly used by the group. The statement could not be independently verified.
Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters from the ethnic group’s autonomous enclave in the north showed signs of taking a greater role in fighting back against the Islamic State. Their role is a potential point of friction because both Sunni and Shiite Arabs are wary over Kurdish claims on territory outside their enclave.
Kurdish security forces known as peshmerga took over an air base and other posts abandoned by the Iraqi military in the ethnically mixed flashpoint city of Kirkuk, Brig. Halogard Hikmat, a senior peshmerga official told the Associated Press. But he denied reports the whole city was under peshmerga control.
“We decided to move… because we do not want these places with the weapons inside them to fall into the hands of the insurgents,” said Hikmat. Iraqi government officials could not be reached to confirm the account.
A force of 20 pick-up trucks carrying Islamic State militants attacked peshmerga positions near the town of Sinjar, on a highway between Mosul and the Syrian border. The two sides battled for four hours late Wednesday night in a firefight that killed nine militants and wounded four peshmerga, Hikmat said.
Militants also attacked an Iraqi security checkpoint Thursday in the town of Tarmiyah, 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Baghdad, killing five troops and wounding nine, said officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
After Mosul’s fall, al-Maliki asked parliament to declare a state of emergency that would give him the “necessary powers” to run the country – something legal experts said could include powers to impose curfews, restrict public movements and censor the media.
Lawmakers tried to hold a session to approve the measure Thursday, but too few showed up and they were unable to reach quorum to vote.
Hundreds of young men crowded in front of the main army recruiting center in Baghdad on Thursday after authorities urged Iraqis to help battle the insurgents.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, offered his country’s support to Iraq in its “fight against terrorism” during a phone call with his Iraqi counterpart, Iranian state TV reported.
Shiite powerhouse Iran, which has built close ties with Iraq’s postwar government, a day earlier said it was halting flights to Baghdad because of security concerns and has intensified security measures along its borders.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday blasted the Islamic State as “barbaric” and said that his country’s highest security body will hold an immediate meeting to review the developments in neighboring Iraq.
The Islamic State aims to create an Islamic emirate spanning both sides of the Iraq-Syria border. It has been able to push deep into parts of the Iraqi Sunni heartland once controlled by U.S. forces because police and military forces melted away after relatively brief clashes.
The White House said Wednesday that the United States was “deeply concerned” about the Islamic State’s continued aggression.
Human Rights Watch expressed concern Thursday about the group’s advances, noting its history of violence and other abuses. The rights group also called on Baghdad to deal with the crisis “without the brutal tactics for which civilians elsewhere in the country have long been paying a heavy price,” deputy Middle East director Nadim Houry said.
There were no reliable estimates of casualties or the number of insurgents involved, though several hundred gunmen were involved in the Tikrit fight, said Mizhar Fleih, the deputy head of the municipal council of nearby Samarra. An even larger number of militants likely would have been needed to secure Mosul, a much bigger city.
Mosul, the capital of Ninevah province, and the neighboring Sunni-dominated province of Anbar share a long and porous border with Syria, where the Islamic State is also active.
Mosul’s fall was a heavy defeat for al-Maliki. His Shiite-dominated political bloc came first in April 30 parliamentary elections – the first since the U.S. military withdrawal in 2011 – but failed to gain a majority, forcing him to try to build a governing coalition.
In addition to being Saddam’s hometown, Tikrit was a power base of his once-powerful Baath Party. The former dictator was captured by U.S. forces while hiding in a hole in the area and he is buried south of town in a tomb draped with the Saddam-era Iraqi flag.
The White House on Wednesday expressed concerns that Islamic militants had regained a foothold in Iraq after an al Qaeda-affiliated group seized control of a second major city.
Islamist militants seized the northern city of Tikrit on Wednesday, an action that sparked alarm in Washington and Baghdad, just days after rebel forces also captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.
“The situation in Iraq is grave,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest conceded to reporters traveling with the president Wednesday to Massachusetts.
“There is no doubt that the situation has deteriorated over the last 24 hours,” he added.
Earnest said the U.S. was “deeply concerned” the instability could create a humanitarian crisis, with reports saying Iraqi security forces had fled both cities and thousands of refugees were seeking shelter.
Rebel groups have allegedly seized control of government buildings and released prisoners, adding to the chaos.
Earnest called on Iraqi leaders to organize a response to turn back the rebel forces, and said Washington was offering its support to Baghdad.
The Iraqi government plans to meet Thursday in Baghdad to vote on whether to give Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki emergency powers that would give him broader latitude to combat the sectarian violence.
The U.S. also condemned the kidnapping of 49 Turkish diplomatic personnel in Mosul by the group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Earnest called the attack “despicable” and demanded the immediate release of the prisoners.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said earlier Wednesday that Secretary of State John Kerry had called Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to express “their mutual concern” about the security situation.
“We join Turkey and the international community in calling for the immediate release of Turkey’s kidnapped diplomatic personnel,” Psaki said.
When President Barack Obama removed the last U.S. forces from Iraq in December 2011, he announced that – as he had planned – the U.S. was leaving behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government.”
It was a “moment of success,” he said.
On Feb. 27, 2009, a little more than a month after his first inauguration, Obama gave a speech at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina that the White House entitled, “Responsibly Ending the War in Iraq.”
Obama said then that his strategy was based on the “achievable goal” of a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant” Iraq–and that he intended to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of 2011, as had been envisioned in the Status of Forces agreement negotiated by the Bush Administration.
“Today, I can announce that our review is complete, and that the United States will pursue a new strategy to end the war in Iraq through a transition to full Iraqi responsibility,” said Obama. “This strategy is grounded in a clear and achievable goal shared by the Iraqi people and the American people: an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant. To achieve that goal, we will work to promote an Iraqi government that is just, representative, and accountable, and that provides neither support nor safe-haven to terrorists.”
“And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011,” said Obama. “We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned.”
Almost three years later, on Dec. 14, 2011, when he was removing the last U.S. troops from Iraq, Obama gave a speech at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Here he said his strategy based on building a sovereign, stable, self-reliant Iraq had succeeded.
“It’s harder to end a war than begin one,” Obama said at Fort Bragg. “Indeed, everything that American troops have done in Iraq – all the fighting and all the dying, the bleeding and the building, and the training and the partnering – all of it has led to this moment of success. Now, Iraq is not a perfect place. It has many challenges ahead. But we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people. We’re building a new partnership between our nations. And we are ending a war not with a final battle, but with a final march toward home. This is an extraordinary achievement, nearly nine years in the making.”
In the past seven months, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – a terrorist group that sprang from al Qaeda – has captured Fallujah and Mosul, and is now intent on capturing the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
In February, CIA Director John Brennan told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that al Qaeda camps on both sides of the Syrian-Iraq border are a threat to the United States.
“Do you believe that there are training camps that have been established on either side of the Iraqi or Syrian border for the purposes of training al Qaida operatives?” House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers asked Brennan.
Brennan said: “There are camps inside of both Iraq and Syria that are used by al Qaida to develop capabilities that are applicable both in the theater as well as beyond.”
Chairman Rogers asked: “Do you believe that that ungoverned space presents a real threat to the United States of America, via al Qaida operations, or the West?”
“I do,” said Brennan.
Obama had announced on Oct. 21, 2011, that all U.S. troops would in fact leave Iraq by the end of that year. The next day, the New York Times ran a story headlined: “Despite Difficult Talks, U.S. and Iraq Had Expected Some American Troops to Stay.” The top of that story said:
“President Obama’s announcement on Friday that all American troops would leave Iraq by the end of the year was an occasion for celebration for many, but some top American military officials were dismayed by the announcement, seeing it as the president’s putting the best face on a breakdown in tortured negotiations with the Iraqis. And for the negotiators who labored all year to avoid that outcome, it represented the triumph of politics over the reality of Iraq’s fragile security’s requiring some troops to stay, a fact everyone had assumed would prevail.”