Tag Archives: Saddam Hussein

ISIS takes over Iraq’s main oil refinery at Baiji – reports

A view of Baiji oil refinery, 180km (112 miles) north of Baghdad

Sunni militants have gained full control over Iraq’s main oil refinery at Baiji, south of Mosul, according to media reports.

ISIS takes over Iraq’s main oil refinery at Baiji – reports

Radicals from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS, or ISIL) have been attacking the refinery, which is responsible for supplying a third of Iraq’s oil, for the past ten days.

The militants are planning to hand over the complex to local tribes for day-to-day management, BBC quoted a rebels’ spokesman as saying, adding that the militants will continue to make their way to Baghdad.

Al-Arabiya also reported that the refinery was taken over by Sunni militants. Meanwhile three Iraqi officials also confirmed to CNN the militants had seized the Baiji oil refinery.

The Baiji complex plays a key role for Iraqis as it refines the country’s crude into petroleum for domestic consumption, including for transportation and power stations, sparking fears of shortages.

On Monday, Sunni militants retook control over the northern city of Tal Afar and an airport. Tal Afar was first taken over on June 18, after the militants took Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.

The ongoing offensive by the ISIS aims at achieving total dominance in Iraq by radical Sunni militants. On June 22, jihadists captured three new towns and two border crossings, one with Jordan and one with Syria.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad on Monday. He held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s foreign minister as well as Shiite and Sunni leaders.

“The key today was to get from each of the government leaders clarity with respect to the road forward in terms of government formation,” Kerry said.

The US’s help for Iraqi forces to defeat ISIS will be “intense and sustained,” Kerry said.

Kerry added that President Barack Obama is collecting all the required information in case he decides to order airstrikes against Sunni militants in Iraq, Kerry said in Baghdad on Monday.

“The President has moved the assets into place and has been gaining each day the assurances he needs with respect to potential targeting,” Kerry stated. Obama “has reserved the right to himself, as he should, to make a decision at any time.”

Earlier President Obama offered up to 300 additional American military personnel to go to Iraq and help coordinate the fight, while last week, F-18s started surveillance flights over Iraq as Washington authorized a “manned and unmanned” observation mission.

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Who are the major players in the Iraq crisis?

Nouri al-Maliki

As Iraq edges toward civil war, here’s a look at major players and groups in the crisis.

Insurgents

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a Sunni jihadist group that has its roots in the al-Qaeda-linked insurgents that formed the backbone of the resistance against U.S. forces in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. It has since expanded operations into Syria, where it is fighting the regime of Bashar Assad, and has broken formal ties with al-Qaeda. It embraces a radical form of Islam and consists of battle-hardened fighters.

Earlier this year, the group ransacked Fallujah and Ramadi, two influential Sunni cities in western Iraq. It has managed to hold much of Fallujah and portions of Ramadi. More recently it seized parts of Mosul and was positioned to edge toward Baghdad.

ISIL is also referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Nouri al-Maliki

The prime minister of Iraq leads a Shiite dominated government that has alienated many of the Sunnis in Iraq over the past several years. Maliki has been criticized for not taking more steps to include rival Sunni leaders in his government.

Shiites are the majority sect in Iraq, but for most of Iraq’s history they were oppressed by the Sunnis, who dominated the government. Saddam Hussein and his key leaders were all Sunnis. Shiite leaders during that time were driven into exile.

Iraq’s armed forces

Organized, trained and, to some extent, equipped by the United States, the Iraqi military was a competent force when the United States pulled all its forces out in 2011.

But over the past several years Maliki has been accused of appointing political cronies to key leadership positions and the military has ceased to conduct regular training. Sunnis have said the army is little more than another Shiite militia and have little confidence in its ability to protect them. Many units simply collapsed when insurgents attacked Mosul and other cities in Iraq.

Shiite militias

During the U.S. occupation of Iraq, Shiite militias, some of which were backed by Iran, grew to become powerful forces. Among the strongest such militias is the Mahdi Army, a group loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Shiite militias at various times attacked U.S. forces and also participated in sectarian warfare in Iraq between Sunnis and Shiites, which peaked in 2006. Most of the insurgent gains were in Sunni or mixed areas. Shiite militias will likely try to protect Shiite neighborhoods if insurgents attempt to move into Baghdad.

Stop Calling the Iraq War a ‘Mistake’ | Dennis J. Kucinich

As Iraq descends into chaos again, more than a decade after “Mission Accomplished,” media commentators and politicians have mostly agreed upon calling the war a “mistake.” But the “mistake” rhetoric is the language of denial, not contrition: it minimizes the Iraq War‘s disastrous consequences, removes blame, and deprives Americans of any chance to learn from our generation’s foreign policy disaster. The Iraq War was not a “mistake” — it resulted from calculated deception. The painful, unvarnished fact is that we were lied to. Now is the time to have the willingness to say that.

In fact, the truth about Iraq was widely available, but it was ignored. There were no WMD. Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. The war wasn’t about liberating the Iraqi people. I said this in Congress in 2002. Millions of people who marched in America in protest of the war knew the truth, but were maligned by members of both parties for opposing the president in a time of war — and even leveled with the spurious charge of “not supporting the troops.”

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I’ve written and spoken widely about this topic, so today I offer two ways we can begin to address our role:

1) President Obama must tell us the truth about Iraq and the false scenario that caused us to go to war.

When Obama took office in 2008, he announced that his administration would not investigate or prosecute the architects of the Iraq War. Essentially, he suspended public debate about the war. That may have felt good in the short term for those who wanted to move on, but when you’re talking about a war initiated through lies, bygones can’t be bygones.

The unwillingness to confront the truth about the Iraq War has induced a form of amnesia which is hazardous to our nation’s health. Willful forgetting doesn’t heal, it opens the door to more lying. As today’s debate ensues about new potential military “solutions” to stem violence in Iraq, let’s remember how and why we intervened in Iraq in 2003.

2) Journalists and media commentators should stop giving inordinate air and print time to people who were either utterly wrong in their support of the war or willful in their calculations to make war.

By and large, our Fourth Estate accepted uncritically the imperative for war described by top administration officials and congressional leaders. The media fanned the flames of war by not giving adequate coverage to the arguments against military intervention.

President Obama didn’t start the Iraq War, but he has the opportunity now to tell the truth. That we were wrong to go in. That the cause of war was unjust. That more problems were created by military intervention than solved. That the present violence and chaos in Iraq derives from the decision which took America to war in 2003. More than a decade later, it should not take courage to point out the Iraq war was based on lies.

Sunni militants seize Tal Afar city of 200k citizens enlarging control of Iraq

The Sunni militants fighting to make an Islamic state in Iraq have scored another victory in their move to control more territory. They captured Tal Afar, a city of 200,000 residents in north-west of the country.The city was taken just before dawn on Monday, Mayor Abdulal Abdoul confirmed to AP. The report was also confirmed by residents on the phone.

Residents reported that there was heavy fighting within the city limits as Shiite security troops used rockets and helicopters in an attempt to stop the advancing militants.

“The situation is disastrous in Tal Afar. There is crazy fighting and most families are trapped inside houses, they can’t leave town,” a local official told Reuters on Sunday before the city was overrun. “If the fighting continues, a mass killing among civilians could result.”

Tal Afar is home to mostly ethnic Shiite and Sunni Turkmen. Residents fear persecution by the hardline orthodox Sunni fighters comprising the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Sham movement.

The city had been one of the few spots of resistance to ISIS in the north-west of Iraq because, unlike most other Iraqi troops, the unit defending it didn’t flee the militants. It is also located close to the regions controlled by Kurds, who have been autonomous from Baghdad in most regards and have their own militias.

Iraqi men, who volunteered to fight against the Jihadist militants, gather around buses in Baghdad on June 13, 2014, as security forces are bolstering defenses in the capital.

US-trained Iraqi army and security forces proved to be grossly unprepared to defend the country from the lightning operation of ISIS, which is now in control of a large territory, including Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul and Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.

ISIS military success made US consider the prospect of joining forces with its long-time adversary Iran to help the Iraqi government in dealing with the imminent threat.

ISIS seeks to create a fundamentalist Islamist state in the territories or Iraq and Syria with the majority of Sunni population. They are one of the fiercest and most radical fighters in the region, notorious for staging suicide bombing attacks and mass executions.

Their Iraqi offensive also made them the most wealthy and well-armed militant force in the region, after they captured banks and military depots.

US, UK create joint team to prepare for air strikes in Iraq – report

Over a decade after the US and UK invaded Iraq in 2003, the military allies have created a joint ‘counter-terrorist’ team to send to the country. British officers are already on their way “to prepare for possible air strikes,” The Sunday Times reports.

“SAS [Special Air Service of the British Army] officers were on their way to Iraq this weekend to prepare the ground for possible air strikes. Senior defence sources confirmed that military personnel were part of a joint British and American “counter-terrorist” team ordered in on Friday by William Hague, the foreign secretary, and John Kerry, the US secretary of state. The team is understood to include MI6 operatives as well as high-ranking special forces officers,” The Sunday Times reported.

The mission might be a result of “options” considered by US President Barack Obama, which he announced in an earlier statement. Air strikes and the use of drones were among the range of possible military options, and the paper confirmed that, saying that SAS “task will be to identify possible targets before Obama decides whether to commit American air power.”

According to military experts, such special forces teams can target missiles at objects using special lasers, increasing the accuracy of air strikes. They can also establish the degree of destruction during certain military operations.

With the current crisis in Iraq, the US may find itself in a position where it will act on one side with Iran to prevent further military gains by a “too extreme for Al-Qaeda” jihadist group. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said that Tehran may consider cooperating with Washington to battle the extremist threat.

Militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) riding in a captured vehicle left behind by Iraqi security forces at an unknown location in the Salaheddin province on June 14, 2014.

While possible measures against Sunni militant groups in Iraq are being weighed up, the jihadists continue their latest campaign to take control of Baghdad. In its assault across the country’s central and northern regions, ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) seized control of Mosul and Tikrit – Saddam Hussein’s hometown – and were battling their way towards the Iraqi capital.

Washington and London, conscious of public opinion on previous invasions in Iraq, have so far ruled out the option of sending troops back into the country, excluding the possibility of a new long-term military campaign. Other ways of helping the Iraqi military and police are being considered.

The US has already sent heavy ammunition to Baghdad, while Britain has offered its “counter-terrorist expertise” and intends to help with the humanitarian response to the crisis.

US evacuates Baghdad embassy staff as ISIS militants overrun another town in northwest Iraq

A U.S. flag flies in front of the Chancellery building inside the compound of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad

Sunni insurgents led by ISIS jihadists captured the northwestern Iraqi town of Tal Afar on Sunday, reports say, as the militants continue their advance on Baghdad. The US says it is relocating some of its embassy staff to other Iraqi cities.

Follow RT’s live updates on the situation in Iraq

The militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL) overran the town after fighting with security forces, several people in the town told Reuters over the phone.

Iraqi Gen. Mohammed al-Quraishi confirmed to CNN that the city fell to Sunni rebels. Tal Afar is located in the Nineveh province and has a population of about 80,000 people, most of whom are Iraqi Turkmen.

ISIS has also reportedly captured two villages in Diyala province.

Meanwhile the US is increasing security at its embassy in Baghdad, the US State Department said, adding that some personnel will be moved out of the capital.

“Some additional US government security personnel will be added to the staff in Baghdad; other staff will be temporarily relocated – both to our Consulate Generals in Basra and Arbil and to the Iraq Support Unit in Amman,” the statement said. However, the “substantial majority” of embassy staff will remain in Iraq.

A US official speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters that less than 100 US Marines and other military personnel are headed to Iraq to reinforce security at the Baghdad embassy.

The Embassy of the United States in Baghdad remains open and will continue to engage daily with Iraqis and their elected leaders — supporting them as they strengthen Iraq’s constitutional processes and defend themselves from imminent threats,” State Department spokeswoman said in a statement.

Meanwhile, US citizens have been advised to limit travel in five Iraqi provinces, including Anbar and Kirkuk.

On Saturday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered that the USS aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush be moved to the Persian Gulf in case Washington decides to use military force in Iraq to help fight ISIS.

ISIS insurgents managed to seize the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Tikrit with an estimated 7,000-strong force. On Friday, Shia fighters attempted to counter ISIS momentum near Muqdadiya, just 80 km (50 miles) from Baghdad’s city limits.

The UN said ISIS forces have carried out summary executions and rapes as the group battles to take over the country.

Once an offshoot of Al-Qaeda, the hyper-fundamentalist group active in Iraq and Syria fell out with the global terrorist network. It gained notoriety for its ruthless tactics, which include publicly crucifying and beheading those who violate their strict religious interpretations.

Iraq came under the influence of a Shia-majority government after the US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated regime in 2003. Since the withdrawal of US troops in 2011, sectarian tensions have boiled over, resulting in Sunni insurgents increasingly waging war against the central government.

Rogers: Iraq’s sectarian civil war is ‘as dangerous as it gets’ for US, allies

June 14, 2014: Image on a militant website that appears to show militants from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant near Tikrit, Iraq

GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Sunday the uprising in Iraq by an Islamic militant group is “as dangerous as it gets,” and that the Obama administration must reunite with Arab nation partners to stop the surge.

“You can’t just fire missiles and come home,” the Michigan lawmaker told “Fox News Sunday.”

Rogers and others say the situation goes far beyond Iraq’s borders and is a major problem because some of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant fighters, or ISIS, have passports, which allows them to be trained — or “radicalized” – in the region and return to Europe and the United States.

He argued that another major concern is that at least some of the fighters in the Al Qaeda-connected group are “seasoned combat veterans.”

“It’s a jihadist Disneyland,” he said. “We need to do something to stop the momentum.”

Rogers and others also offer as proof of the situation that a Florida man joined Islamic extremists and last month in Syria carried out a suicide bombing against government forces.

Roger specifically called for Obama to work with Arab League partners, who include Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and for U.S. military support to help end the sectarian civil war.

Obama on Friday said he would not send troops in Iraq, but left open the possibility of military action.

The U.S. on Saturday moved the Navy aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush into the Arabian Gulf.

The Islamic militant group last week swept across northern Iraq and captured two major cities — Mosul and Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.

Iraqi government officials said on Sunday ISIS fighters were trying to capture Tal Afar in northern Iraq and raining down rockets seized last week from military arms depots.

The government, meanwhile, bolstered its defenses around Baghdad a day after hundreds of Shiite men paraded through the streets with arms in response to a call by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for Iraqis to defend their country. ISIS has vowed to attack Baghdad, but its advance to the south seems to have stalled in recent days.

Meanwhile, Iraqi troops, many of them armed and trained by the U.S., are fleeing in disarray, surrendering vehicles, weapons and ammunition to the powerful extremist group, which also fights in Syria.

Opinion : Bush’s toxic legacy in Iraq

George W. Bush

George W. Bush

(CNN) — ISIS, the brutal insurgent/terrorist group formerly known as al Qaeda in Iraq, has seized much of western and northern Iraq and even threatens towns not far from Baghdad.

From where did ISIS spring? One of George W. Bush’s most toxic legacies is the introduction of al Qaeda into Iraq, which is the ISIS mother ship.

If this wasn’t so tragic it would be supremely ironic, because before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, top Bush officials were insisting that there was an al Qaeda-Iraq axis of evil. Their claims that Saddam Hussein’s men were training members of al Qaeda how to make weapons of mass destruction seemed to be one of the most compelling rationales for the impending war.

After the fall of Hussein’s regime, no documents were unearthed in Iraq proving the Hussein-al Qaeda axis despite the fact that, like other totalitarian regimes, Hussein’s government kept massive and meticulous records.

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency had by 2006 translated 34 million pages of documents from Hussein’s Iraq and found there was nothing to substantiate a “partnership” between Hussein and al Qaeda.

Two years later the Pentagon’s own internal think tank, the Institute for Defense Analyses, concluded after examining 600,000 Hussein-era documents and several thousand hours of his regime’s audio- and videotapes that there was no “smoking gun (i.e. direct connection between Hussein’s Iraq and al Qaeda.)”

How should the U.S. intervene in Iraq?

Is the U.S. Embassy safe in Iraq?

Expert: ISIS went for ‘easy pickings’

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded in 2008, as every other investigation had before, that there was no “cooperative relationship” between Hussein and al Qaeda. The committee also found that “most of the contacts cited between Iraq and al Qaeda before the war by the intelligence community and policy makers have been determined not to have occurred.”

Instead of interrupting a budding relationship between Hussein and al Qaeda, the Iraq War precipitated the arrival of al Qaeda into Iraq. Although the Bush administration tended to gloss over the fact, al Qaeda only formally established itself in Iraq a year and a half after the U.S. invasion.

On October 17, 2004, its brutal leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi issued an online statement pledging allegiance to Osama bin Laden. Zarqawi’s pledge was fulsome: “By God, O sheikh of the Mujahideen, if you bid us plunge into the ocean, we would follow you. If you ordered it so, we would obey.”

Zarqawi’s special demonic genius was to launch Iraq down the road to civil war. In early 2004, the U.S. military intercepted a letter from Zarqawi to bin Laden in which he proposed provoking a civil war between Sunnis and Shia.

Zarqawi’s strategy was to hit the Shia so they would in turn strike the Sunnis, so precipitating a vicious circle of violence in which al Qaeda would be cast as the protector of the Sunnis against the wrath of the Shia. It was a strategy that worked all too well, provoking first sectarian conflict in Iraq and later civil war.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI, regularly attacked Shia religious processions, shrines and clerics. The tipping point in the slide toward full-blown civil war was al Qaeda’s February 2006 attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra, which is arguably the most important Shia shrine in the world.

Three years into the Iraq War, AQI seemed all but unstoppable. A classified Marine intelligence assessment dated August 17, 2006, found that AQI had become the de facto government of the western Iraqi province of Anbar, which is strategically important because it borders Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia and makes up about a third of the landmass of Iraq.

In addition, AQI controlled a good chunk of the exurban belts around Baghdad, the “Triangle of Death” to the south of the capital and many of the towns north of it, up the Tigris River to the Syrian border.

Thus AQI controlled territory larger than New England and maintained an iron grip on much of the Sunni population.

In other words, the Bush administration had presided over the rise of precisely what it had said was one of the key goals of the Iraq War to destroy: a safe haven for al Qaeda in the heart of the Arab world.

By 2007, al Qaeda’s untrammeled violence and imposition of Taliban ideology on the Sunni population provoked a countrywide Sunni backlash against AQI that took the form of Sunni “Awakening” militias. Many of those militias were put on Uncle Sam’s payroll in a program known as the “Sons of Iraq”.

The combination of the Sunni militias’ on-the-ground intelligence about their onetime AQI allies and American firepower proved devastating to al Qaeda’s Iraqi franchise. And so, between 2006 and 2008, AQI shrank from an insurgent organization that controlled territory larger than the size of New England to a rump terrorist group.

But AQI did not disappear. It simply bided its time. The Syrian civil war provided a staging point over the past three years for its resurrection and transformation into the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” or ISIS. And now ISIS has marched back into western and northern Iraq. Only this time there is no U.S. military to stop it.

via Opinion: Bush’s toxic legacy in Iraq – CNN.com.

US airstrikes to support Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s offensive in Iraq?

F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft

Iran deployed its Revolutionary Guard to help Iraq battle insurgents from a group inspired by Al-Qaeda, according to a recent report. In the meantime, the US is mulling airstrikes to support the Iraqi government.

On Wednesday, Al-Qaeda affiliate insurgents from the armed group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) conquered former dictator Saddam Hussein‘s hometown of Tikrit, marking the second major loss for the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Earlier this week, insurgents captured Mosul, the second-largest city in the country. With jihadists threatening Baghdad and security forces unable resist the Sunni Islamists’ assault, Maliki turned to foreign powers for help, getting responses from two unlikely allies, Iran and the US.

Two battalions of the Quds Forces, which is the overseas branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, moved to Iraq on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported. There they worked jointly with Iraqi troops to retake control of 85 percent of Tikrit, security forces from both countries told the Journal. Iranian forces are also helping guard the Iraqi capital of Bagdhad, as well as two Shiite holy cities that the Sunni jihadists are threatening.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard

Meanwhile, on Thursday morning, US President Barack Obama declared that he doesn’t rule out any options with regards to the ISIS takeover of cities in the northern region of Iraq. The administration and its national security team are discussing military options.

“We do have a stake in ensuring these jihadists don’t get foothold in either Iraq or Syria,” Obama said.

Later in the day, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney clarified that US will not send ground troops to Iraq, but is seriously considering airstrikes that would help to drive jihadist militants out of their strongholds.

Iraq has privately indicated to the Obama administration that it would welcome airstrikes with either drones or manned aircraft that target ISIS militants in Iraqi territory, US officials said Wednesday.

If so, US may find itself assisting its archnemesis in the Middle East to fight against Sunni militias that enjoy support from one of America’s closest allies in the region, Saudi Arabia. The ruling family of the kingdom has long been accused of supplying jihadists all over the region with arms and financial support, the New York Times reported.

The US and Iran severed diplomatic relations in 1979, after Islamic militants following Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized the government and deposed the American-backed shah. Iranian students stormed the American embassy in Tehran, leading to the 444-day Iran hostage crisis. Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran was in a state of heavy international isolation. The US has led the world in debilitating sanctions against the Islamic Republic that have increased as the Middle Eastern country has developed its nuclear program.

Under Hussein’s dictarorship, Sunnis dominated the Iraqi political landscape, even though over 60 percent of Iraqis are Shia. In Iran, over 95 percent of the population is Shia. The two countries are the only majority-Shiite nations in the Middle East. (Over 1.1 billion Muslims around the world are Sunni, while less than 200 million Muslims are Shia.)

From 1980 to 1988, the two nations battled in a deadly war in which both sides deployed chemical weapons. The US sided with Hussein during that war, but turned against the dictator when he invaded American ally Kuwait in 1990, leading to the first Gulf War. Hussein stayed in power until the second Gulf War began in March 2003.

Once Hussein was captured by American forces in December 2003, the Shia majority regained political power. Al-Maliki is a Shiite Muslim and has become unpopular with Iraq Sunni minority, which has accused the government of discrimination. Since 2005, Iran and Iraq have had a flourishing relationship, and are now considered to be each other’s strongest allies.

Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waving the trademark Islamists flag after they allegedly seized an Iraqi army checkpoint in the northern Iraqi province of Salahuddin on June 11, 2014.

Quds Forces have been active in Iraq for years, creating, training and funding Shiite militias that battled the US military after the 2003 invasion. Iran sees the battle for Iraq as “an existential sectarian battle between the two rival sects of Islam-Sunni and Shiite—and by default a proxy battle between their patrons Saudi Arabia and Iran,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

The US still sees Iraq as vital to its national interests, despite having pulled its troops out of the country at the end of 2011.

“What we’ve seen over last couple of days indicates degree to which Iraq is going to need more help,” Obama said, calling recent events a “wake-up call for the Iraqi government.”

“The next 9/11 is in the making,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said of the danger of the Iraqi insurgency.

Iraq crisis : Militants take Tikrit’ after taking Mosul

the jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) allegedly shows ISIL militants near the central Iraqi city of Tikrit. Militants battled Iraqi security forces in Tikrit on June 11, 2014. (ISIS)

the jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) allegedly shows ISIL militants near the central Iraqi city of Tikrit. Militants battled Iraqi security forces in Tikrit on June 11, 2014. (ISIS)

Al-Qaeda-inspired militants on Wednesday seized the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit, a day after Mosul, the country’s second largest city, fell under their control.

The sweeping advances of the extremist Islamist State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the rapid collapse of the Iraqi army, on which the United States spent at least $16 billion to build, has sent shockwaves across the region and internationally.

Militants took control of government buildings, financial institutions, weapon stockpiles, which could help them gain strength in their war against the rule of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

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In Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein and the Salaheddin provincial capital, the militants seized a local prison and freed hundreds of prisoners. It lies roughly half way between Baghdad and Iraq’s second city Mosul which fell on Tuesday.

“All of Tikrit is in the hands of the militants,” a police colonel was quoted by AFP as saying.

Tikrit is the second major gain for the militants in three days

Tikrit is the second major gain for the militants in three days

A police brigadier general said that the militants attacked from the north, west and south of the city, and that they were from powerful jihadist group ISIS.

In Mosul, the militants on Wednesday seized 48 Turks from the Turkish consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, including the consul-general, three children and several members of Turkey’s Special Forces, a source in the Turkish prime minister’s office said.

Read the latest about the seizure of the Turkish consulate here

The United States has said Jihadist militants in Iraq pose a threat to the entire region and voiced deep concern about the “serious situation.”

“It should be clear that ISIL is not only a threat to the stability of Iraq, but a threat to the entire region,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has said, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) group.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed grave concern about the takeover of Mosul, calling on political leaders to unite in the face of threats.

His spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Ban was “gravely concerned by the serious deteriorating of the security situation in Mosul, where thousands of civilians have been displaced.”

Full-scale war

Chris Doyle, the director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu), told the BBC on Wednesday that Iraq is no longer an uprising or a crisis, but a full scale war.

Doyle said alongside other crises in the region, Iraq needs to be addressed with urgency and seriousness by the international community that it has lacked so far.

“It is essential that the leading international powers work with regional partners to ensure that this full scale war does not intensify further. Events in Iraq are a product of an Iraqi, regional and international failure over many years,” Doyle added.

Nouzad Hadi, the governor of the Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil, blamed Maliki’s government for the fall of Nineveh Province, including its capital city Mosul.

Hadi told the Dubai-based Hadath TV channel that the Iraqi military forces “are well-armed with the latest weaponry from the United States” but “that Maliki’s security policy has led to this failure.”

“This is a real tragedy,” Hadi said.

Commenting on Maliki’s policy towards the Sunnis in Iraq, Doyle said “there needs to be a political approach that is inclusive, one which does not alienate the Sunni community or other major constituencies.”

“This has been a considerable failure of the government of Nouri al-Maliki, that has taken sectarian politics to a new low. Any assistance given to Iraq must be based on an inclusive political situation without which there can be no military one.”

In October 2013, Maliki and before he arrived in Washington on an official visit, six influential U.S. senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama in which they accused Maliki of pursuing sectarian policies in Iraq and of marginalizing the Sunnis.

Democrats Carl Levin and Robert Menendez and Republicans John McCain, James Inhofe, Bob Corker and Lindsey Graham warned in the letter that “security conditions in Iraq have dramatically worsened over the past two years” and that “al-Qaeda in Iraq has returned with a vengeance.”

“Unfortunately, Prime Minister Maliki’s mismanagement of Iraqi politics is contributing to the recent surge of violence,” they said.