News / Middle East

    US Pledges to Help Iraq Repel Militants

    A family fleeing the violence in Mosul, Iraq, waits at a checkpoint in the country’s Kurdistan region on June 11, 2014.
    A family fleeing the violence in Mosul, Iraq, waits at a checkpoint in the country’s Kurdistan region on June 11, 2014.
    VOA News
    With security in Iraq quickly deteriorating, the United States on Wednesday pledged "any appropriate assistance" to help the Iraqi government fend off a rapid military advance by Islamist militants.

    Militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) hours earlier overran the city of Tikrit and closed in on Iraq's biggest oil refinery in the town of Beiji, a day after seizing Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul.

    By late Wednesday, militants had reached the edge of Samarra, an important Shi'ite shrine almost 113 kilometers, or 70 miles, north of Baghdad, The New York Times reported. The militants threatened to destroy the shrine unless government forces left.

     
    Cities Mosul, Tikrit and Beiji, IraqCities Mosul, Tikrit and Beiji, Iraq
    x
    Cities Mosul, Tikrit and Beiji, Iraq
    Cities Mosul, Tikrit and Beiji, Iraq
    Witnesses said militants have taken over several Tikrit police stations and the governor reportedly is missing. Tikrit, the hometown of fallen Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, is less than 200 kilometers, or 124 miles, from Baghdad and the central government.

    The State Department has had no confirmation of news reports that militants were heading for Baghdad, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a news briefing. "It is a very fluid situation on the ground," she added. "We are of course very concerned about the deteriorating situation."

    Militants still control Mosul

    Militants continue to hold Mosul, as both Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Ninevah Provincial Governor Athil Nujeifi urged residents to fight to retake it.
     
    Maliki blasted Iraqi military officials who deserted their posts and fled Mosul, claiming in a speech Wednesday that they were part of a plot.
     
    Earlier on Wednesday, the International Organization for Migration said Wednesday that fears of further violence in Mosul forced 500,000 people to flee their homes. It said the displaced either moved across the city or fled to other parts of Ninevah province or the neighboring Kurdish province of Irbil.
     
    Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
     
    • Formed by members of al-Qaida-linked groups in Syria and Iraq
    • Aims to establish an Islamic emirate across Syria and Iraq
    • Led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, former leader of al-Qaida in Iraq
    • Believed to have 5,000 to 7,000 fighters
    • Has launched high-profile attacks in both countries

    Turkish government sources said militants have seized the Turkish consulate in Mosul, kidnapping at least 48 people, including the Turkish consul, staff members, guards and three children. The militants already had abducted 31 other Turkish citizens, truck drivers who were being held at a Mosul power station.

    Psaki said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had discussed the situation by phone.

    "We are in touch with the governments of Turkey and Iraq and stand ready to provide any appropriate assistance,'' she said.

    Washington this year already had increased training of Iraqi security forces and expedited military equipment supplies, Psaki said.

    "We are working with Iraqi leaders from across the country to support a coordinated response," Psaki said, "and you can expect we will provide additional assistance to the Iraqi government to combat the threat from ISIL.'

    At the United Nations in New York, Davutoglu warned Wednesday that any harm to Turkish citizens would be met with the "harshest retaliation."

    Global oil prices climb

    Militants had entered Beiji, set fire to the police station and courthouse, and driven out some 250 men guarding the refinery. With news of the seizure and threat to Iraq's oil supply, global oil prices climbed to $110 a barrel.
     
    With tightened security measures, an Iraqi federal policeman conducts a search at aBaghdad checkpoint on June. 11, 2014.With tightened security measures, an Iraqi federal policeman conducts a search at aBaghdad checkpoint on June. 11, 2014.
    x
    With tightened security measures, an Iraqi federal policeman conducts a search at aBaghdad checkpoint on June. 11, 2014.
    With tightened security measures, an Iraqi federal policeman conducts a search at aBaghdad checkpoint on June. 11, 2014.
    Separately, at least 16 people were killed in a suicide bombing in Baghdad. The attack took place at a tent where people had gathered in Sadr City's Shi'ite neighborhood.   

    Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Wednesday that Iraq's leaders must unite to face what he called a "serious, mortal threat" facing the country.

    The militants' seizure of Iraqi cities and their swift advance southward constitute a stunning defeat for the country's Shi'ite-led government.

    Hundreds of fleeing soldiers reportedly tore off their uniforms and fled their posts for the safety of nearby Kurdistan. One soldier told Iraq's al-Sharqiya TV that he had come "face-to-face with vicious Pakistani fighters" and "felt incapable of pushing them back."

    Declaration of emergency sought

    Maliki, saying the country is "undergoing a difficult stage," asked parliament to call an urgent session to declare a state of emergency.

    The parliament's speaker, Osama al-Nujaifi, characterized the militants' takeover of Mosul as "a catastrophe by any measure" and described the scene there.

    "When battles intensified inside the city of Mosul, the [Iraqi] forces abandoned their weapons and the commanders fled, leaving behind weapons, armored vehicles,"  al-Nujaifi said. "Their positions were easy prey for terrorists, even Mosul airport. Planes and command positions -- all of them have fallen, in addition to weapons caches. Also, prisons were stormed and criminals have been set free. What happened is a catastrophe by any measure."

    The attackers were armed with rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft weapons. Retreating Iraqi troops set fire to fuel and ammunition depots to keep the insurgents from using them.

    Al-Qaida group defies control

    The takeover of Mosul was the latest blow against the Iraqi government's attempt to control the growing insurgency by ISIL, an offshoot al-Qaida group. Earlier this year, the group took over another Iraqi city, Fallujah, and government forces have been unable to reclaim it after months of fighting.

    To the west of Mosul, the militants have seized control of parts of eastern Syria in their fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The insurgents are seeking to establish an Islamic state with the regions they control in eastern Syria and western Iraq.

    Iraq is dealing with its worst violence since 2008, with the United Nations reporting that approximately 4,500 people have been killed this year. More than 900 of the deaths occurred last month.

    Related video by Sebastian Meyer, "ISIS Takeover in Mosul Displaces Thousands"  
     
    ISIS Takeover in Mosul Displaces Thousandsi
    X
    June 11, 2014 10:32 PM
    The extremist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) seized control of the western half of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city on June 6. Three days later, Iraqi security forces retreated, leaving the entire city in the hands of the jihadis. According to the U.N., up to half a million people have fled the city, raising concerns over a new humanitarian crisis. Sebastian Meyer reports from northern Iraq.

    Some information for this report came fron Reuters. VOA News' Edward Yeranian also contributed from Cairo, Egypt.

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    Comments page of 2
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    by: harry from: australia
    June 12, 2014 12:45 AM
    Commenting on this easy.There is no easy solution either.Comes back to that point where an invasion changed a united stable nation because Bush and Cheney disliked Saddam.Whatever their intent the endgame is being played out.It doesnt look good for the entire region.Dont know if giving weapons will help.It might just end up in enemy hands.A soldier either fights or flees and they seem to be doing the latter.Massive air strikes might destroy their weapons and supplies and slow them down.Enough time for the Iraqis to regroup.America could not have stayed indefinitely propping up a weak govt operating on sectarian lines.Terrorists feed on weaknesses and divisions and ffwd we are at this point.Besides America just doesnt have unlimited funds to engage globally like it once did.Makes a mockery of Congress arguing over national debt when money is splurged on misadventures like Bush's Iraq War campaign.When we look back we realise that Gadaffi,Saddam and Mubarak were actually good for their respective nation's unity and security and of course regional peace.

    by: MUSTAFA from: INDIA
    June 11, 2014 10:56 PM
    Pakistani fighters are among militants. This is a very serious issue, why Pakistan involve its self in destruction of Iraq and killing of Iraqi peoples. There is serious doubts about Nawaz and Zardari capability to save Pakistan, then why they involve them self in this conflict. We suggest Pakistani Govt to concentrate on more on Pakistan side, development, safety and security for Poor Pakistani. Capture human killer and give them punishment. This is very serious allegation by some peoples that Nawaz and Zardari Govt in Pakistan is Main Sponsor of Terrorist group against Aid Money.

    by: Billy Bob
    June 11, 2014 9:18 PM
    Wait, I'm confused. Aren't these the same rebels we are helping in Syria? So Syria: rebels good - Iraq: rebels bad.

    by: Eric from: USA
    June 11, 2014 7:26 PM
    If we decide to help Iraq in any way shape or form it should be in the form of a 51st state. We have fought so hard to do what train a group of people that run away when faced with force. I say bring our troops in one more time last time make it a state or we should tell them good luck on your future. It was what is was it will become what you make it. And bring our troops home stop this side steeping and get to the point.

    by: Scott Sinnock from: Woodstock IL
    June 11, 2014 5:33 PM
    Why are we offering help? Haven't we learned enough already of the death and destruction we cause by our "help"? It is THEIR civil war, let THEM fight it out, even if we think one side beats their women more than the other. Let's just trade with whoever wins, at whatever price they want to set, oil included, as Thomas Paine recommended these many years ago.
    In Response

    by: Mark from: Virginia
    June 12, 2014 10:27 AM
    Exactly. I agree fully. Many lessons of our own past, many ideas from our own history we have failed to learn. Too bad we did not fully listen to George Washington, either, and his ideas on how this country should be governed. Small government, limited international involvement.

    We are the opposite of what our Founding Fathers have envisioned for us. Power does that. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    by: charles robertson from: North Carolina
    June 11, 2014 5:10 PM
    once again our country is butting into every ones business. We give our money to everyone except the




    american people. Protect our boarders!! with all the money we are giving away

    by: What
    June 11, 2014 5:06 PM
    How about the Arab League does something? The UN? Anyone of these alphabet oganizations that say they are for stability in the region.

    by: mike from: naples
    June 11, 2014 5:03 PM
    I read where the Iraqi forces who retreated outnumbered their aggressors 15 to 1 during the brief siege of Mosul, leaving behind their weapons and uniforms. Next I read that the President of Iraq is pleading for international assistance. That is some gall.

    by: Steve from: USA
    June 11, 2014 4:40 PM
    Sooo, we pledging to fight the same rebels we are backing in Syria or is this a different group we're backing Iraq against like the ones attempting to destroy the deathstar? Its so hard to keep my rebel groups straight.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    June 11, 2014 10:13 AM
    IF ONLY? -- If only the US, EU, and NATO countries hadn't interfered in the politics of the Islamic countries, like in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, and Yemen, bringing violence, killings, destruction and wars, that's now spreading to other surrounding countries, the whole world would be a far safer place to live in, wouldn't it be?

    IF ONLY?) -- If only the US, EU, and NATO countries interference had brought some kind of peace. -- (BUT?) -- the only things they brought was violence, death, destruction and wars, with millions of innocents homeless, starving, dying and being killed, by what the US, EU, and NATO countries brought upon them? --- (The US, EU, and NATO, are like (3) of the (4) Horsemen of the Apocalypse?). ...... REALLY
    In Response

    by: Goldingen from: Mittawa
    June 11, 2014 1:44 PM
    "I thought and still think that we then stirred up the anthill , which is now called international terrorism. Not only in Afghanistan, but also in the entire region. It was an irresponsible decision of the USSR leadership" (Boris Gromov,Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet army fought in Afghanistan). NATO is fighting against these "ants". I wonder, where to they start moving, if NATO leaves the region.
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