News / Middle East

    Iraq Conflict has Displaced 1 Million, UN Says

    • Members of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces take their positions during clashes with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Ramadi, Iraq, June 19, 2014.
    • Members of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces take their positions during clashes with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Ramadi, Iraq, June 19, 2014.
    • A general view shows damaged houses after fighting in the city of Ramadi, Iraq, June 19, 2014.
    • A member from the oil police force stands guard at Zubair oilfield in Basra, southeast of Baghdad, June 18, 2014.
    • This June 17, 2014 image taken from video uploaded to a militant social media account shows Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants arriving at the oil refinery in Beiji, Iraq.
    • This June 17, 2014 image taken from video uploaded to a militant social media account shows Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants arriving at the oil refinery in Beiji, Iraq.
    • This June 17, 2014 image taken from video uploaded to a militant social media account shows Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants arriving at the oil refinery in Beiji, Iraq.
    • Iraqi Shi'ite Turkmen families fleeing the violence in Tal Afar arrive in Shangal, a town in Nineveh province, Iraq, June 17, 2014.
    • Mehdi Army fighters loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr march during training in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq, June 16, 2014.
    • Residents gather at governorate building of Nineveh province after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant took control in the city of Mosul, Iraq, June 16, 2014.
    • This image posted on a militant website on June 14, 2014 appears to show militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant with captured Iraqi soldiers wearing plain clothes after taking over a base in Tikrit, Iraq.
    • This image posted on a militant website on June 14, 2014 appears to show militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant moving captured Iraqi soldiers after taking over a base near Tikrit, Iraq.
    Images from Iraq
    VOA News
    The ongoing conflict in Iraq has displaced more than one million people so far this year, the United Nations reports, connecting the massive disruptions to domestic divisions and a spillover of violence from Syria.
     
    Iraq’s internal sectarian divisions and several years of war in neighboring Syria have fueled the region’s instability, the U.N. Refugee Agency said in a report released Friday.
     
    Much of the displacement has occurred in western Anbar province. This month’s breathtakingly swift, bloody advance of fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Islamic, who’ve seized control of several key Iraqi cities, has upended more lives, with at least 500,000 fleeing the city of Mosul alone.
     
    Syria tied to Iraqi upheaval
     
    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a speech Friday to the Asia Society, linked the displacement in Iraq to a spillover of violence from Syria.
     
    "Divisions within Syria, the region and international community, even within the United Nations, and continued arms flows continue to fuel the conflict," Ban said. "These bleak prospects have darkened further with a flare of violence and sectarian tensions in Iraq. Suddenly the cohesion and integrity of two major countries, not just one, is in question."
     
    "The time is long past for the international community, in particular the Security Council, to uphold its responsibilities," he said in urging the U.N. council to impose an arms embargo on Syria.
     
    Ban also discouraged airstrikes against ISIL, the al-Qaida splinter group also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
     
    Military strikes, he cautioned, "might have little lasting effect or even be counter-productive if there is no movement toward inclusive government in Iraq."

    Battle over refinery continues

    Iraqi troops continued battling Islamic militants over control of a major oil refinery Friday, amid news that the insurgents have seized a chemical weapons facility once owned by the late Saddam Hussein.
     
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    Since Tuesday, there has been intense fighting for control of the sprawling Beiji refinery, located about 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Baghdad. As of Friday, each side held a portion of the facility.
     
    Fighters with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have wrested control of the chemical weapons facility, the U.S. State Department said Thursday.
     
    Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. "remains concerned about the seizure of any site by the ISIL," but said the complex likely does not contain chemical weapons of military value. She stressed it would be "very difficult, if not impossible, to safely move the materials."

    Cleric's call to arms clarified

    Meanwhile, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric urged all Iraqis to unite against the ISIL-led Sunni jihadists overtaking swaths of the country, including most of one province and parts of three others.
     
    Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said if the insurgents are not “fought and expelled from Iraq, everyone will regret it tomorrow, when regret has no meaning," his spokesman said Friday in the shrine city of Karbala, according to the French news agency AFP.
     
    In televised remarks, spokesman Abdul Mehdi al-Karbalai said the ayatollah’s call last week for Iraqis to join the armed forces was meant to transcend sectarian and ethnic divisions and “was for all citizens, without specifying a religion.”  
     
    "The goal was to get ready to face the takfiri group called ISIL, which now has the upper hand... in what is happening in many provinces," al-Karbalai said, using an Arabic word roughly translated as extremist, AFP reported.
     
    The ayatollah’s call for volunteers bolstered the ranks of the struggling Iraqi army as it battles the Sunni militants -- including some fighters loyal to Hussein.

    Sistani calls for new, 'effective' government

    In a hit to the country's Shi'ite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, Sistani called on Friday for a new, "effective" government that avoids "past mistakes" amid a widening offensive by Sunni militants.

    The remarks come after U.S. President Barack Obama called on Maliki to create an agenda "inclusive" of Iraq's Sunni and Kurdish minorities or risk civil war.

    U.S. officials would not comment directly Friday on Sistani's statement. But White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said a successful Iraqi government would be one that governs in an "inclusive fashion." State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said one of the administration's primary messages to Iraqi leaders is that "now is a time to be unified" against the shared threat they face.

    US to send 300 advisers
     
    President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about the situation in Iraq, June 19, 2014, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington.President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about the situation in Iraq, June 19, 2014, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington.
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    President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about the situation in Iraq, June 19, 2014, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington.
    President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about the situation in Iraq, June 19, 2014, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington.

    Obama said Thursday he is prepared to send more equipment and up to 300 U.S. advisers to help Iraq fight against the militants that have already taken over much of the country's northern region.
     
    Speaking from the White House, Obama ruled out sending U.S. ground forces back into Iraq after withdrawing combat troops in 2011 following eight years of fighting. But he said is ready to take what he calls "targeted" military action as necessary, leaving the door open for possible airstrikes against Sunni militants.

    Story continues below
    Obama Faces Dilemma on Iraq Interventioni
    X
    Steve Baragona
    June 20, 2014 11:20 PM
    In 2011, the United States pulled its forces out of Iraq with the intent to never return, but the advances made by militant insurgents in that country are forcing the U.S. administration to re-visit that policy. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

     
    Kerry heads to Middle East


    Obama is sending Secretary of State John Kerry to the Middle East and Europe this weekend for talks with U.S. allies.
     
    Kerry called ISIL a threat to everyone in the region, saying there's no single military answer to the Iraqi crisis. He said forming a new unity government as rapidly as possible will be the greatest single step toward quelling the violence and finding a solution.

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    Comments
         
    by: S.N OKOYE from: NIGERIA
    June 21, 2014 2:50 PM
    No matter the mistake the Iraq President Nouri Malik had made by not being inclusive of the Sunni's and co in his government, the militants need to be stopped because their ultimate aim seems not short of sacking the government in Bagdad.When this happens, there is likely to be no end to cycle of violence in Iraq. The mistake can be corrected afterwards.

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    June 21, 2014 4:27 AM
    It does take firm patience and reverence in order to read so many lopsided views. But I do understand the frustration. Since the powers to be still have no more control over the countless years of human suffering, we should focus on ALL OF THEM ON BOTH SIDES. You can place blame, point fingers, and smear hateful rhetoric (the same way Democrats and Republicans operate!) against the USA or EU or UN or ISLAM, but it doesn't help us, or the powerless, or the hurting, or the suffering. Can any of you USA haters say with true conviction that if we, the USA, completely stay out of ISLAMIC affairs, then they will be peaceful? Towards each other? Towards their non-ISLAMIC neighbors? If you think these ISLAMIC 'peacelovers' will stop the violence, rape, murder, destruction of each other and their non-ISLAMIC neighbors, then you are totally and historically clueless and really need to stay in your shell, hopefully your shell is radiation-proof. There are keys ingredients in this story's recipe. Did anyone notice the statement that the insurgents have overtaken a chemical weapons facility that was once owned by Saddam? Did all of your objective intellects allow you to decipher this statement, or is bashing and blaming so much simpler? In a world of instant history, means we can forget it just as instantly. With that being said, I guess Colin Powell did lie to congress that Saddam didn't have weapons of mass destruction! What? He didn't lie? Or the 25 kilos of enriched uranium (nuclear bomb grade) found in Saddam's arsenal was just a coincidence and nothing we needed to worry about? Long-range SCUD missiles, blah blah blah. Is that enough to go to war? Doubtful, but still all the Bush-bashing media made sure we looked like fools. The Republicans are idiots! Oooops, I was watching CNN. The Democrats are anti-American retards! Oooops, accidentally changed it to Fox News. My bad. Don't give up on your simple minds just yet. There is still another question at hand here. If Saddam had a chemical weapons facility, and we conquered Iraq, the Iraqis killed Saddam, so why are the current insurgents capturing this facility? In other words, why wasn't this facility destroyed!!!!! We were there for 7, 8 years! But we didn't make sure this facility was totally destroyed? Hopefully some of your simple minds can offer a little more insight on this issue, or shall we continue bashing each other?

    by: Anonymous
    June 20, 2014 6:59 PM
    f****** US destroys completely two river's civilization

    by: michelle from: USA
    June 20, 2014 6:15 PM
    Too many things happening too fast. Conservatives are confused without Fox News talking points. And no one is paying attention to their witch hunt hearings.

    by: marck from: earth
    June 20, 2014 2:30 PM
    May the God of Abraham Bless the Whole World !!!

    by: LouAZ from: Aridzona
    June 20, 2014 2:21 PM
    These are the same tribes who have had over 2000 years to sort out their religious differences. Why would anyone expect them to solve them now ?

    by: Thos Hartmann from: Washington
    June 20, 2014 2:15 PM
    Mission Accomplished

    by: toledo from: ohio
    June 20, 2014 2:14 PM
    Why are we there in Iraq? Because they scared us enough to do something. Now we lost many and our government used the situation to spy on us legally.

    by: MUSTAFA from: INDIA
    June 20, 2014 1:22 PM
    USA & EU Must take action against sponsors of ISIL. Now this become common practice in this civilised world to hire Terrorist and give them money, equipment and training in the name of opposition of that country. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Kuwait are the key players in this dirty drama of Syria and Iraq. How many innocent peoples killed by these sponsor terrorist, no body knows exact figure, rough estimate says more than 200,000/=. I think if no body sponsor Terrorism, then this world will become paradise otherwise day by day this world will become hell for poor and helpless peoples.

    by: Delmonte from: USA
    June 20, 2014 11:39 AM
    US warmonger Punksident Obama and US news media have spinning on news to pressure China to give up its territory. US assist SOS came to Vietnam to lie about China 's territory on May 7 and falsely accessed China with his lies.
    Xisha islands is just south of Hainan island and have been the home of about 400 Chinese fishing families for many generations.
    There has never been dispute prior to 1974 when S.Vietnam thought that it could conquer it with its 3 modern destroyers given by US against China 's old navy ships, 1/3 is size, but was defeated.
    Vietnam in its diplomatic official letter to Chinese Premier In 1958 recognized this as China's indisputable territory n ordered its departments to cooperate with China in all activities.

    In Response

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    June 21, 2014 7:44 AM
    Delmonte! Wow, what knowledge you have of the China/Vietnam ongoing conflict, kudos brother. We are talking about Iraq for now, if that's OK with you. Right continent, wrong topic. Solid point, but I thought I was on the wrong page when I was reading your comment. Before you rip on our president, remember, he was raised a Sunni Muslim. You just don't walk away from that........EVER! The Sunnis are overtaking Iraq, how much do you think he actually cares? Percentage wise? No matter how much we loathe Obama, and a lot of us do, you can still properly address our president. Remember how we felt when they were insulting Bush? Remember how we thought of those who did?

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