"Sunni militants have seized an Iraqi crossing on the border with Syria after a daylong battle in which they killed some 30 Iraqi troops, security officials said on Saturday.
The capture of the Qaim border crossing deals a further blow to prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's government, which has struggled to push back against Islamic extremists and allied militants who have seized large swaths of the country, including the second largest city Mosul, and who have vowed to march on Baghdad.
Police and army officials said the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and allied militants seized the crossing near the border town of Qaim, about 320 kilometers (200 miles) west of Baghdad, after battling Iraqi troops all day Friday.
It seems that the importance of geography in war is not well understood anymore. Four days ago we forecast here that the rebel coalition would attack to clear and hold the al-Qaim Euphrates river crossing and the associated border crossing into Syria. It was clear that the rebels would need to open their line of communication into Syria. They have done that and have also taken the town of Rawah farther to the east on the Euphrates. There is another major bridge at Rawah and desert roads go straight north from that bridge to Tel 'Afar and thence to the Mosul area. Captured Iraqi Army equipment is moving steadily to the west and south to Aleppo in some cases but most certainly down the gravel roads to Rawah and then on into Anbar Province to reinforce rebel forces. There are now photographs on the internet of Heavy Equipment Transporters (HET) loaded down with captured upgraded humvees, tanks and artillery. East of Rawah there is yet another bridge across the Euphrates at Haditha. This bridge is in rebel hands. A hard surface road runs straight from the bridge to Baiji where 200 government troops are fighting to retain the Baiji oil refinery. Pay attention, folks, the people running the rebel offensive know their craft well. pl
"Hundreds of Iraq troops battling for control of the vital Baiji oil refinery are outnumbered, surrounded and remain trapped inside the facility, a U.S. official told ABC News.
The battle for the refinery was in its fifth day today, although fighters for the radical Islamic militia ISIS have apparently taken control of much of the facility and are willing to keep the government forces isolated until they run out of food and ammunition, sources said.
"There is very little the Iraqi government can do to save or liberate those guys," a U.S. official told ABC News." ABC News
"Nassir al-Saedi, a cleric loyal to the firebrand Muqtada al-Sadr, referred to America as "the occupier" in a sermon during Friday prayers and added "We will be ready for you if you are back."
On Thursday, President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. would send 300 military advisers to provide intelligence and training to the Iraqi army in its fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a group that has already taken wide swathes of territory in Iraq's north and west.
But the Shiite militias formed in response to the current ISIS offensive could represent a dangerous wild card in the new battle for Iraq. The Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to al-Sadr, battled U.S. troops and was blamed for attacks on Sunni civilians during the height of the country's sectarian bloodletting in 2006 and 2007. The same was true of several Iran-backed militias in the years prior to the American withdrawal in 2011. Last week, in the wake of the capture of the cities of Mosul and Tikrit by ISIS, al-Sadr has called for the formation of "peace brigades" to repel attacks on sites holy to Shiites across Iraq. " Foxnews
Moqtada al-Sadr's "boys" are not called the "Mahdi Army." That would IMO be "al-jeish al-mahdi" meaning an army that had some of the characteristics of the mahdi. In fact, in Arabic this force is called "jeish al-mahdi," i.e., the mahdi's army. In other words, they are the mahdi's own forces who await his imminent appearance perhaps in the company of Jesus. Most of them think that the mahdi will be the long "hidden" Shia Imam whose re-appearance they have longed for over many centuries. These are religious fanatics in the truest sense of the words. They are every bit as dangerous to foreigners or Sunni Musims as the ISIS jihadis are to Shia people.
US "advisers" working in Iraq in the midst of Iraqi Shia will be in constant danger from Shia who share this alim's hatred of foreigners.
The Commander in Chief will be sorry that he has made such a decision. pl