Intensifying offensive: ISIL seizes more towns in push towards Baghdad

Iran rejects US action in Iraq amid speculation that Maliki may be forced to quit as premier.

Reuters June 23, 2014

ANBAR: The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took over more towns in its push towards Baghdad on Sunday, as Iran’s supreme leader accused the United States of trying to retake control of Iraq by exploiting sectarian rivalries.

ISIL thrust east from the Iraqi-Syrian border post near the town of Qaim it captured a day earlier, taking three towns in Iraq’s Anbar province, witnesses and security sources said. The gains included the towns of Rawa and Ana east of Qaim, the town of Rutba further south on the main highway from Jordan to Baghdad, and a second border-post west of Rutba.

A military intelligence official said Iraqi troops withdrew from Rawa and Ana after ISIL militants attacked the settlements late on Saturday. “Troops withdrew from Rawa, Ana and Rutba this morning and ISIL moved quickly to completely control these towns,” the official said.

Later, on Sunday, a relatively small number of militants fired into the air near the al Waleed border post, forcing officials manning the post to flee, Iraqi security sources said.

Khamenei rejects US action in Iraq

“We are strongly opposed to US and other intervention in Iraq,” the IRNA news agency quoted Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying on Sunday. “We don’t approve of it as we believe the Iraqi government, nation and religious authorities are capable of ending the sedition.”

The condemnation came three days after US President Barack Obama offered to send 300 military advisers in response to pleas from Iraq’s government. Some Iraqi observers interpreted Khamenei’s remarks as a warning not to try to handpick any successor to Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, amid speculation he may be pushed to quit over the crisis.

Speaking in Cairo, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington wanted the Iraqi people to find a leadership that would represent all the country’s communities – though he echoed Obama in saying it would not pick or choose those leaders. 

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2014.



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