The news from Iraq continues to be dire for anyone who's not rooting for the creation of a brutal fundamentalist state in the middle of one of the world's least stable regions. In past days ISIS rebels in the country have captured four more towns and three border crossings, and two quotes given to the Associated Press by anonymous Iraqi officials do not exude confidence that the situation will improve any time soon:
"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."
The four towns captured—Qaim, Rawah, Anah and Rutba—are in Iraq's large western Anbar province. The advances block Iraq's main point of access to neighboring Jordan and further consolidate ISIS' control of the border with Syria. The rebels are now also in position to threaten a major dam near the city of Haditha that The Guardian describes as "the lifeblood of Iraq's electricity generation."