Islamic Extremists Continue Violent Takeover on March Toward Baghdad

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 11 2014 3:45 PM

Islamic Extremists Continue Violent Takeover on March Toward Baghdad

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Bodies of victims killed in a suicide attack that tore through a residential area of Al-Muwaffaqiyah, east of Mosul, Iraq, in October 2013. Sunni militants have seized Mosul this week.

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the Iraqi city of Tikrit fell to the Islamic State of Iraq in Syria, or ISIS, continuing the militant group's violent rise to power. The victory comes just one day after ISIS seized control of Mosul after a tense four-day holdout, raiding a Turkish embassy and killing 48 people (including diplomats) in the process. As the extremists advance through Iraq, myriad members of the Iraqi military have elected to surrender, facilitating the takeover. From the BBC:

The day's developments mean ISIS now has effective control over three cities, including Falluja and Ramadi in neighbouring Anbar. All three were centres of the insurgency against coalition forces and more than 30% of US lives were lost there during the Iraq war.
The US claim at the time that it had "strategically defeatedal-Qaida has repeatedly been proved to be false over recent months as jihadists have re-entrenched themselves in former battlegrounds. So too has the Iraqi government claim that its forces have the means to oust them. Officials have told the Guardian that casualty rates among military ranks are now higher than 2,500. The toll is despite no serious attempts being made to retake lost ground.
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The group now appears poised to march toward Baghdad, where the government's control is currently perilously tenuous. 

In desperation, the Iraqi government has turned to the United States for help—but immediate aid is unlikely to be forthcoming:

With its authority steadily crumbling, Baghdad has turned to Washington, asking the Obama administration to provide it with missiles and artillery. Iraq has not sought a return of US forces and Obama has been deeply reluctant to commit to sending troops back to the region. The events in Mosul – where militants released prisoners from the city's jails and are reported to have raised the group's flags above civic buildings – appear to have caught the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, off guard.

ISIS first rose to international prominence last year after subverting both moderate and Islamist groups opposing Bashar al-Assad. After its eventual ouster in the Syrian war, the group turned its attention to Iraq, where its rapid rise to success has caught most observers off-guard.

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.