The Iraqi military pushed back against insurgents in several key areas of the country, slowing what had been “lightning advances” by the Islamists, reports Reuters. A military spokesperson said troops had managed to regain control over most of the northern Salaheddin province on Saturday. But CNN points out some security officials are skeptical of the claim, noting that as much as 70 percent of the province remains in the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. Indeed, it might be more accurate to describe the current situation as a “battlefield stalemate,” points out the Wall Street Journal, which notes that the Iraqi military is now focusing on rebuilding its armed forces. The slowed advance by the militants comes as thousands of Shiites answered the call to take up arms.
The mobilization of civilians suggests that there’s a general lack of faith in the U.S.-trained Iraqi military and could “intensify Sunni-Shiite strife in a nation already ripped by religious fervor after the militants’ battlefield success,” points out the Associated Press. Prices of essential goods soared in Baghdad on Saturday as residents began stockpiling products in fear that a siege of the capital is imminent, reports the New York Times.
Meanwhile, the United States has sent an aircraft carrier and two guided missile ships into the Persian Gulf as President Barack Obama analyzes the possibility of air strikes against the Sunni militants. The warship “gives Obama airstrike options in addition to air force assets on land in bases used by the US, like Qatar's al-Udeid,” reports the Guardian. The move comes on the same day as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani confirmed Tehran is ready to help Iraq fight against the insurgents. The New York Times points out that despite some media reports to the contrary, Rouhani never flat-out denied that Iran had already sent troops to Iraq. And the BBC hears word that 130 Iranian Revolutionary Guards have entered Iraq to help with training and logistical support.
The Iranian president also said it was possible Tehran could work with the United States in Iraq. "We can think about it if we see America starts confronting the terrorist groups in Iraq or elsewhere,” Rouhani said. "We all should practically and verbally confront terrorist groups.”