Wednesday, January 28, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Militants blitz through Iraq’s western desert

By
From page A1 | June 23, 2014 |

BAGHDAD — Sunni militants have blitzed through the vast desert of western Iraq, capturing four towns and three border crossings and deepening the predicament of the Shiite-led government in Baghdad led by Nouri al-Maliki.

The latest military victories – including two border posts captured Sunday, one along the frontier with Jordan and the other with Syria – considerably expanded territory under the militants’ control just two weeks after the al-Qaida breakaway group began swallowing up chunks of northern Iraq, heightening pressure on al-Maliki to step aside.

The lightening offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant takes the group closer to its dream of carving out an Islamic state straddling both Syria and Iraq. Moreover, controlling the borders with Syria will help it supply fellow fighters there with weaponry looted from Iraqi warehouses, significantly reinforcing its ability to battle beleaguered Syrian government forces.

If the Sunni insurgents succeed in their quest to secure an enclave, they could further unsettle the already volatile Middle East and serve as a magnet for Jihadists from around the world – much like al-Qaida attracted extremists in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama, in an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” aired Sunday, warned that the Islamic State could grow in power and destabilize the region. Washington, he said, must remain “vigilant” but would not “play whack-a-mole and send U.S. troops . . . wherever these organizations pop up.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in the Jordanian capital on Sunday, also weighed in. The Islamic State, he warned, is a “threat not only to Iraq, but to the entire region.”

The U.S. is looking for ways to work with Middle Eastern nations, most of them led by Sunni governments, to curb the Sunni militant group’s growth. Officials in the United States and the Middle East have suggested privately that al-Maliki must leave office before Iraq’s Sunnis will believe that their complaints of marginalization by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad will be addressed.

Al-Maliki, in office since 2006, has shown no sign he is willing to step down. However, he has been uncharacteristically silent since Obama and Iraq’s top Shiite cleric both urged the prime minister last week to form an inclusive government that promotes the interests of all of Iraq’s ethnic and religious groups.

Iraq’s newly elected parliament must meet by June 30, when it will elect a speaker and a new president, who, in turn, will ask the leader who enjoys the support of a simple majority in the 328-seat chamber to form a new government. Al-Maliki’s State of the Law won 92 seats, more than any other group but not enough to form a government.

The militants’ stunning battlefield successes in the north and the west of Iraq have laid bare the inadequacies of the country’s U.S.-trained forces and their inability to defend the rapidly shrinking territory they hold. In the north, troops fled in the face of the advancing militants, abandoning their weapons, vehicles and other equipment. In some cases in the west, they pulled out either when the militants approached or when they heard of other towns falling.

The chief military spokesman, Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, spoke on Sunday of tactical withdrawals to regroup and prepare to retake what has been lost to the militants.

“We have a very, very serious crisis to deal with,” acknowledged a senior government official close to al-Maliki’s inner circle. “Up until now, we don’t have a plan to retake any territory we lost. We are working on one still.”

A top Iraqi military intelligence official was equally blunt, saying the battlefield setbacks in Iraq’s restive western Anbar province and the north have given the militants much more freedom of movement and their firepower has dramatically increased.

“Their objective is Baghdad, where we are working frantically to bolster our defenses,” said the official. “I will be honest with you, even that is not up to the level of what is needed. Morale is low.”

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive subject.

It is not clear whether Obama’s deployment of up to 300 military advisers to retrain Iraqi troops could make a difference or turn things around quickly enough to prevent the militants from digging in and improving their defenses. Obama has also left the door open for airstrikes.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said he was opposed to any U.S. involvement in the Iraqi crisis, accusing Washington of fomenting the unrest. His comments appeared to quash recent speculation that the two rivals might cooperate in addressing the shared threat posed by the Islamic extremists.

“We strongly oppose the intervention of the U.S. and others in the domestic affairs of Iraq,” Khamenei, who has the final say over Iran’s state policy, was quoted as saying by the IRNA state news agency, in his first reaction to the crisis. “The main dispute in Iraq is between those who want Iraq to join the U.S. camp and those who seek an independent Iraq.”

“The U.S. aims to bring its own blind followers to power,” said Khamenei, whose Shiite, none-Arab nation has close ties with al-Maliki’s government and effectively plays the role of guarantor for Iraq’s Shiite political domination. The U.S. has long accused Iran of meddling in Iraq, including organizing and backing Shiite militias following the 2003 invasion.

For now, however, the militants are on a seemingly unstoppable offensive.

On Sunday, their military advances took the conflict in Iraq to the doorstep of Jordan, a key U.S. ally that also borders embattled Syria to its north.

Sunday’s capture of crossings bordering Jordan and Syria follows the fall on Friday and Saturday of the towns of Qaim, Rawah, Anah and Rutba, all of which are in Sunni-dominated Anbar province, where the militants have since January controlled the city of Fallujah and parts of the provincial capital, Ramadi.

Rutba is on the main highway from Baghdad to the two border crossings and the capture of the crossing into Jordan has effectively cut the Iraqi capital’s main land route to its neighbor. It is a key artery for passengers and goods and has been infrequently used in recent months because of deteriorating security.

The capture of Rawah on the Euphrates River and the nearby town of Anah appeared to be part of a march toward a key dam in the city of Haditha, the destruction of which would damage the country’s electrical grid and cause major flooding. The military has dispatched reinforcements to the dam’s site to protect it.

In a separate incident in Anbar, twin blasts by a suicide bomber and a car bomb targeted a funeral for a senior army officer, killing eight people and injuring 13, police and hospital officials said. The attack near the provincial capital of Ramadi hit the funeral of Brig. Gen. Abdul-Majid al-Fahdawi, who was killed by a mortar shell in Qaim on the Syrian border on Friday.

In other violence, Sunni militants in control of a small northern town handed over the decomposing bodies of 15 Shiites to authorities in the northern city of Kirkuk, according to the city’s deputy police chief, Maj. Gen. Torhan Abdul-Rahman Youssef.

Residents of the town of Besher said the Shiites were hung from street lights and a water tank for days. The circumstances of their deaths were not immediately known and the residents requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
Youngster battles brain cancer a 2nd time

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
2 Solano road projects get green light

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A1

 
Rush Ranch seeks docents

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A2

Health officials report 1st Solano flu death

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A3, 5 Comments | Gallery

 
Kroc Health Fair offers free screenings

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Vacaville police to offer law enforcement academy

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A4

Vanden to host science fair

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A4

 
Woman with Solano ties caught up in tax fraud case

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A4

 
Frazier schedules coffee in Suisun City

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

 
 
 
Coalition members review tobacco control report card

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A5

Vacaville Toastmasters welcome guests

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A6

 
Chipotle fundraiser to benefit Armijo newspaper

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A6, 3 Comments

 
American Legion Post schedules head-shaving fundraiser

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A6

 
Dramas, thrillers lead week’s box office openings

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B8

 
Suisun City police log: Jan. 25, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: Jan. 24, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: Jan. 26, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: Jan. 25, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: Jan. 24, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: Jan. 26, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Gold nuggets stolen in smash and grab

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
CSU chancellor looks to increase graduation rates

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Officials lose track of billions in funding

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 3 Comments

 
Bill would treat e-cigs the same as regular cigarettes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

 
NTSB: Systemic flaws in safety oversight of gas pipelines

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Military has wide discretion on Bergdahl charges

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14, 1 Comment

Gunmen storm Libya hotel, killing American, 9 others

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Famed civil rights protesters to have arrest records erased

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Secret talks in Jordan try to win release of hostages

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
‘Wicked storm': Blizzard drops 2 feet of snow on New England

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: Jan. 28, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Jan. 28, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Horoscope Jan. 28, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B6

 
We live close to my nephew but he chooses to remain distant

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B6

 
10 Things: 10 fresh takes on Super Bowl guacamole

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
.

Entertainment

Christina Aguilera to perform ahead of NBA All-Star Game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Common, John Legend to perform ‘Glory’ at Academy Awards

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Katie Holmes to guest on ‘Ray Donovan’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
.

Sports

Falcon boys drop 69-61 SCAC loss to Bethel

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Local Report: Armijo boys roll past Napa 69-41

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1, 1 Comment

Nadal loses; Sharapova to play all-Russian semi in Australia

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Belichick and The Beast talk but don’t say much at Media Day

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Deflated topic: air pressure in footballs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1, 1 Comment

 
Rose’s shot lifts Bulls over Warriors 113-111 in overtime

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
 
Manfred hopeful of A’s getting new ballpark in Oakland

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Christina Aguilera to perform ahead of NBA All-Star Game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Super Bowl, Tiger make Phoenix center of sports universe

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Long after Twitter feud, Revis, Sherman pledge respect

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
The distinctive international flavor of Super Bowl Media Day

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Serena Williams advances, Venus out of Australian Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Getting fired from New England led to Carroll’s reinvention

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Sharks in ‘dogfight’ to secure playoff berth

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Jury convicts 2 ex-Vanderbilt players of raping woman

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Rio official says there’s ‘no plan B’ for Olympic sailing

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Golfer Allenby stands by story, says truth will come out

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Tony Stewart returns with a swagger not seen in 2 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Shooters find not every basketball is same in college game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Patrick heads into 2015 in final season with team, sponsor

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
This date in sports history for Jan. 28, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Business

FTC clears Albertsons’ purchase of Safeway

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
US home price gains slow in November on weaker sales

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

.

Obituaries

Clarence E. Morgan

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Julia P. Tan

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Don Johnson

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 11 Comments

 
Woodrow Allen Oakley

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Donald Wesley Johnson

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6