The radical militants of ISIS continue to expand their control over the Anbar region of Iraq, capturing their fourth town in just two days. Among the conquests was the town of Rutba, which is located just 90 miles east of the Iraqi border with Jordan.
As the Associated Press reports, by wresting control of Rutba, ISIS now runs a strip of a major highway, "a key artery for passengers and goods" heading to and from neighboring Jordan. The capture of al-Qaim, as we noted earlier, has already given ISIS control of a vital border crossing post between Iraq and Syria.
ISIS also took the towns of Rawah and Anah, which some fear will lead to the capture of Haditha, home to an important dam that, if destroyed, could cause massive flooding and damage the country's electrical grid.
This is the latest in a continuing series of setbacks for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose Shiite government has failed to stop the advance of ISIS across western and northern Iraq. His government is awaiting the arrival of 300 military advisers from the United States to help Iraqi forces find a way to stabilize the country.
Iran is now voicing its opposition to any "intervention" by the Americans, whom Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accuse of trying to re-take control of the country.
American authorities are trying to portray this as a sectarian war, but what is happening in Iraq is not a war between Shi'ite and Sunnis."
Let's hope he watches the Sunday shows this morning.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, arriving in Cairo this morning, plans to ask the leaders of a number of Arab states to use their influence with Iraqi politicians to convince them to form a government that appeals to broader parts of Iraq's population. According to the New York Times, Kerry will also push governments to stem the (sometimes covert) flow of funds to ISIS.
After a fierce battle with Iraqi forces, the Sunni militant group ISIS took control of a crossing on the border between Iraq and Syria, making it easier for the group to shuttle weapons and supplies between the two countries.
By the day's end, a number of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters and Iraqi troops had died in clashes, mainly over the strategic town of Al-Qaim, near the border with Syria. Once the town was under ISIS control, the border crossing was abandoned, giving the group unfettered access to move fighters, weapons, and supplies between the two frontiers.
Sunni militants have taken control of the Iraq-Syria border point at Al-Qaim http://t.co/iaMAMYUE9I— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) June 21, 2014
Syria and Iraq comprise the basis for the area that ISIS aims to use to establish a new Islamist state in the Middle East.
Elsewhere in the country, Baghdad was the site of a massive parade by Shiite militiamen, a show of force against what's seen as an inevitable ISIS offensive against the Iraqi capital. Crowds amassed as groups in all different uniforms marched with guns, swords, rocket launchers, and rifles.
Jaish al-Mahdi marching in Baghdad this evening. This unit chanted: "We will crush ISIS's heads under our boots." pic.twitter.com/rDU8gUXVk3— C.J. Chivers (@cjchivers) June 20, 2014
In recent days, ISIS has captured Iraq's largest oil refinery as well as Saddam Hussein's old chemical weapons plant. They've also displaced tens of thousands of Iraqis, bringing the tally of refugees to over a million this year.
UN has raised Iraq’s crisis to a Level 3 humanitarian disaster, which is also the designation for Syria's crisis. http://t.co/OPqQ1F9ZXf— Anup Kaphle (@AnupKaphle) June 18, 2014