Patrick Cockburn offers a cogent, matter-of-fact account of the latest developments in Iraq:
Iran is moving to stop the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) from capturing Baghdad and the provinces immediately to the north of the capital.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is taking a central role in planning and strategy in Baghdad in the wake of the disintegration of the Iraqi army in the country’s north, an Iraqi source has told The Independent.
With the Iraqi army command completely discredited by recent defeats, the aim of the IRGC is to create a new and more effective fighting force by putting together trustworthy elements of the old army and the Shia militias. According to the source, the aim of the new force would be to give priority “to stabilising the front and rolling it back at least into Samarra and the contested areas of Diyala”. The Iraqi army has 14 divisions, of which four were involved in last week’s debacle, but there is no sign of the remaining units rallying and staging a counter-attack. MORE…
On June 11, Cockburn wrote: “Iraq Crisis: Capture of Mosul Ushers in the Birth of a Sunni Caliphate”:
The capture of Mosul by Isis means a radical change in the political geography of Iraq and Syria. Moreover, the impact of this event will soon be felt across the Middle East as governments take on board the fact that a Sunni proto-caliphate is spreading across northern Iraq and Syria.
The next few weeks will be crucial in determining the outcome of Isis’s startling success in taking over a city of 1.4 million people, garrisoned by a large Iraqi security force, with as few as 1,300 fighters. Will victory in Mosul be followed by success in other provinces where there is a heavy concentration of Sunni, such as Salahuddin, Anbar and Diyala? Already, the insurgents have captured the important oil refinery town of Baiji with scarcely a shot fired by simply calling ahead by phone to tell the police and army to lay down their weapons and withdraw.
These spectacular advances by Isis would not be happening unless there was tacit support and no armed resistance from the Sunni Arab community in northern and central Iraq. Many people rightly suspect and fear Isis’s bloodthirsty and sectarian fanaticism, but for the moment these suspicions and fears have been pushed to one side by even greater hatred of Iraq’s Shia-dominated government.
This may not last: Iraqi government officials speak of a counterattack led by special “anti-terrorist” forces that are better trained, motivated and armed than the bulk of the Iraqi army. It may be that the Kurds will use their peshmerga troops in Nineveh and Kirkuk provinces to drive back Isis and create facts on the ground in areas often rich in oil, in Kirkuk and Nineveh provinces. A successful counter-offensive could happen but the failure of the Iraqi army to retake Fallujah, a much smaller city than Mosul, in the six months since it fell in January does not bode well for the government. If the Isis advance takes more towns and villages, then the territory lost to the government may become too large to reconquer.
But Isis too has its weaknesses: in the past it has isolated itself by its fierce determination to monopolise power, impose fundamentalist Islamic norms and persecute or kill all who differ from it. MORE …