Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 29th 2014 Contents A46
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt June 29, 2014
In other parts of the country, such as Jurf al-
Sakhar, 53 miles (85km) south of Baghdad, militants
from ISIL—the Islamic State in Iraq and the Lev-
ant—were on the offensive.
Three police sources said at least 60 ISIL fighters
had been killed along with more than 15 Iraqi secu-
rity forces members when the militant group
launched a major attack on an army camp just east
of Jurf al-Sakhar, firing mortars and RPG rounds.
“The ISIL terrorists fired many mortars at the
camp and then started their offensive. They man-
aged to break into the camp but could not hold
their positions due to army helicopters cover,” a
police colonel said.
Since early June, the radical ISIL has overrun
most majority Sunni areas in the north and west
of Iraq, capturing the biggest northern city Mosul
and fanning southwards.
ISIL vows to re-create a medieval-style caliphate
erasing borders from the Mediterranean to the Gulf
and they deem all Shi’ites to be heretics deserving
death. They boast of executing scores of Shi’ite
government soldiers captured in Tikrit.
Grand Ayatollah’s intervention
In a stunning political intervention on Friday
that could mean the demise of Maliki’s eight-year
tenure, powerful Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali
Sistani urged political blocs to agree on the next
premier, parliament speaker and president before
a newly-elected legislature meets in Baghdad on
Saudi King Abdullah pledged in talks with US
Secretary of State John Kerry to use his influence
to encourage Sunni Muslims to join a new, more
inclusive Iraqi government to better combat Islamist
insurgents, a senior US official said yesterday.
Abdullah’s assurance marked a significant shift
from Riyadh’s unwillingness to support a new gov-
ernment unless Maliki, a Shi’ite, steps aside, and
reflected growing disquiet about the regional reper-
cussions of ISIL’s rise.
“The next 72 hours are very important to come
up with an agreement...to push the political process
forward,” said a former government official from
the National Alliance, which groups all Shi’ite Mus-
The lawmaker said he anticipated internal meet-
ings by various parties and a broader session of
the National Alliance including Maliki’s State of
Law list to be held through the weekend.
Iraqi Sunnis accuse Maliki of freezing them out
of any power and repressing their community, goad-
ing armed tribes to support the insurgency led by
the fundamentalist group ISIL. The president of
Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region has also said
Maliki should bow out.
Sistani’s entry into the fray will make it hard for
Maliki to stay on as caretaker leader as he has since
a parliamentary election in April. That means he
must either build a coalition to confirm himself in
power for a third term or step aside.
Battling Islamists on the border
In Syria, where ISIL controls large swathes of
land, other Islamist rebel groups pursued a count-
er-offensive in the border town of Albu Kamal,
challenging ISIL’s grip along the Iraqi-Syrian fron-
ISIL is a more radical offshoot of al Qaeda that
has its roots in Iraq and expanded into Syria shortly
after the start of the three-year insurgency against
President Bashar al-Assad.
US President Barack Obama has ruled out sending
ground forces back to Iraq, where they were for
eight years after invading to oust Saddam, but has
sent up to 300 advisers, mostly special forces, to
help the government take on ISIL.
US defense officials said on Friday that the Obama
administration was flying armed aircraft over Iraq
although these aimed to collect intelligence
and ensure the safety of US personnel on
the ground rather than attack targets.
Still, General Martin Dempsey, the top
US military officer, said additional US
options included going after “high-value
individuals who are the leadership of ISIL”
and working to protect Iraq’s “critical infra-
Struggle for power
Under Iraq’s governing system put in
place after Saddam’s overthrow, the prime
minister has always been a Shi’ite, the
largely ceremonial president a Kurd and
the speaker of parliament a Sunni. Nego-
tiations over the positions have often been
drawn out: after the last election in 2010
it took nearly 10 months for Maliki to build
a coalition to stay in office.
Divvying up the three posts in the four
days before parliament meets, as sought
by Sistani, would require leaders from each
of Iraq’s three main ethnic and sectarian
groups to commit to the political process
and swiftly resolve their most pressing
political problems, above all the fate of
The roadmap is far from smooth. Kurds
have yet to agree on a candidate for pres-
ident and the Sunnis, long riven by intense
rivalries and shaken by the loss of their
cities to militants, are divided among
themselves over the speaker’s post.
Iraq’s million-strong army, trained and
outfitted by the United States at a cost of
some US$25 billion, largely disintegrated
in the north in the face of ISIL’s offensive.
Thousands of Shi’ite volunteers have
responded to an earlier call by Ayatollah
Sistani for all Iraqis to rally behind the
military to defeat the jihadist threat.
n From Page A41
Political blocs urged to agree on next premier
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