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World powers deadlocked as Iraq under growing threat of civil war
World powers are deadlocked over a deteriorating situation in Iraq, as Sunni insurgents, spearheaded by an al-Qaida breakaway group, advanced in a western province on Saturday and seized the first border crossing with Syria.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has scored sweeping victories across the country, overrunning several major cities in northwest and central Iraq, including the second city Mosul. They seized weaponry and looted banks while advancing.
It is worrying that the fighting, with ever stronger sectarian overtones, might be pushing the country towards a civil war.
Border Crossing Seized
In the predominantly Sunni Anbar province, west of Baghdad, the al-Qaida breakaway group captured three strategic towns of al-Qaim, Rawah and Anah, according to security sources.
The sunni militants seized a large part of al-Qaim, a key city near the Syrian border, after fierce clashes with security forces on Saturday.
Al-Qaim and Albukamal on the Syrian side of the border are on a strategic supply route.
Syrian troops backed by allied tribesmen on Friday foiled an attack by the Sunni militants on the city, but the militants managed to seize large parts of the city earlier Saturday morning, a police source told Xinhua.
Some also feared that by seizing Rawah and Anah, the militants may be aimed at a key dam in Haditha city, which accommodates a hydraulic power station with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts. Its destruction would take a toll on Iraq's electrical supply and even trigger major flooding.
More than 2,000 troops were sent there to protect the dam.
As a sign of widening division, the Shiite held military-style parades in show of force on streets of several Iraqi cities, including the capital Baghdad.
The fighting has displaced tens of thousands of people and disrupted traffic.
Prime Minister in Trouble
The lightning offensive by Sunni militants has put Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki under growing pressure to form an inclusive government or step down.
Many have blamed the Shiite prime minister, who was criticized to become increasingly sectarian, for contributing to probably the worst crisis since the United States pulled back its troops at the end of 2001.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shiite cleric in Iraq, called on al-Maliki to reach out to the Kurdish and Sunni minorities.
The usually seclusive cleric said it is imperative to form an effective government that has broad national support, avoiding past mistakes and opening "new horizons toward a better future for all Iraqis."
The United States has long criticized al-Maliki for not giving the country's Sunni minority a greater role in the Shiite-dominated government. Several leading U.S. lawmakers even called for his resignation.
Al-Maliki's State of Law Coalition won 95 seats out of the 328 seats in parliament in April election, falling short of a majority needed to form the next government. The bloc must first form a majority coalition in the legislature.
Voices of the World
China on Thursday expressed concern over the deterioration of the security situation in Iraq and called for support for Iraq's reconstruction and anti-terrorism efforts.
The international community has common interests in Iraq's security and stability, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, pledging China is ready to provide assistance for Iraq within its capacity in its reconstruction and counter-terrorism efforts.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry would travel to the Middle East and Europe for talks on the Iraqi crisis, the State Department said on Friday.
Kerry will consult with U.S. partners and allies on measures to support security, stability, and the formation of an inclusive government in Iraq, said Jen Psaki, State Department spokeswoman.
U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Thursday his decision to dispatch up to 300 military advisers to the embattled country, where he said the United States is "prepared to take targeted and precise military action" if necessary.
The 300 military advisers, made up of special forces, will be focused on assessing how to best train, advise and support Iraqi security forces, rather than being directly involved in the fight, according to Obama.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, for his part, warned on Friday military strikes against Sunni militants in Iraq could be ineffective and backfire, urging feuding communities of the country to get united to fight against terrorists who have captured a vast area of the country's territory.
[Source: Xinhua, Baghdad, 22Jun14]
War in Iraq
|This document has been published on 23Jun14 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.|