It appears that the Iraqi army is near total collapse. From the NYT:
Sunni militants extended their control over parts of northern and western Iraq on Wednesday as Iraqi government forces crumbled in disarray. The militants overran the city of Tikrit, seized facilities in the strategic oil refining town of Baiji, and threatened an important Shiite shrine in Samarra as they moved south toward Baghdad.
The remarkably rapid advance of the Sunni militants, who on Tuesday seized the northern city of Mosul as Iraqi forces fled or surrendered, reflects the spillover of the Sunni insurgency in Syria and the inability of Iraq’s Shiite-led government to pacify the country after American forces departed in 2011 following eight years of war and occupation.
By late Wednesday, witnesses in Samarra, 70 miles north of Baghdad, were reporting that the militants, many of them aligned with the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS, were on the outskirts of the city. They said the militants demanded that forces loyal to the government leave the city or a sacred Shiite shrine there would be destroyed. Samarra is known for the shrine, the al-Askari Mosque, which was severely damaged in a 2006 bombing during the height of the American-led occupation. That event touched off sectarian mayhem between the country’s Sunni Arab minority and its Shiite majority.
The Times goes on to say that there may be evidence of some sort of military conspiracy to surrender to the ISIS rebels.
Witnesses reported some remarkable scenes in Tikrit, where soldiers handed over their weapons and uniforms peacefully to militants who ordinarily would have been expected to kill government soldiers on the spot.
That’s American weaponry. That’s American-trained soldiers, surrendering without a fight. What a humiliation to this country. What an unspeakable catastrophe for Iraq, large portions of it falling to an Islamist terrorist force so radical that even al Qaeda disowned it.
There are too many Shiite militias for Baghdad to fall, I presume. Am I wrong? It’s going to be a bloodbath no matter what. And now that ISIS is holding Turkish hostages it seized at the Mosul consulate, NATO ally Turkey could easily become involved.
Meanwhile, back in the US, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, the Nebraska Republican, is calling on the US to cease providing weapons to any Syrian rebels:
“I oppose sending U.S. arms to Syria,” Fortenberry said. “The rebel movement is a battleground of shifting alliances and bloody conflicts between groups that include multinational terrorist organizations. Some of the most violent and successful rebel militias are linked to al-Qaeda. Sending our weapons into Syria’s chaotic warzone could help these extremists – jihadists who would be only too eager to seize American weaponry. I have responsibility for how our government spends the money of the citizens it serves. Accordingly, I introduced an amendment that will prevent armament deliveries to Syria. The potential benefits do not outweigh the severe risks.”
“The Syrian people are suffering,” Fortenberry continued. “We should continue our humanitarian aid and diplomatic assistance. Syrians do not deserve to live under Assad’s tyranny. But arming the rebels could make a bad situation worse, further destabilizing the region and causing greater humanitarian catastrophe.”
Fortenberry offered an amendment to the massive military spending bill being considered by a House committee, which would have forbidden money from being spent next year on arming Syrian rebels. The amendment failed because a majority believed that President Obama’s hands must not be tied. The $570 billion bill passed out of committee. So, on we go, making the Middle East safe for democracy.
Think about it: a decade after American troops invaded Iraq as a response to al Qaeda’s 9/11 attack — a decade that saw nearly 4,500 US deaths, tens of thousands of American casualties, 134,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, and cost the US taxpayer at least $1.7 trillion — the capital of that woebegone country is in danger of falling to Islamist berserkers who are more radical than al Qaeda. Yet the US is continuing to arm and train Syrian rebels.
We never learn.
As the threat from Sunni militants in western Iraq escalated last month, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki secretly asked the Obama administration to consider carrying out airstrikes against extremist staging areas, according to Iraqi and American officials.
But Iraq’s appeals for military assistance have so far been rebuffed by the White House, which has been reluctant to open a new chapter in a conflict that President Obama has insisted was closed when the United States withdrew the last of its forces from Iraq in 2011.
If the worst happens, and Republicans start braying about how Obama “lost” Iraq, remember that it was a war started by a Republican president, and that Obama was left behind to clean up the mess.