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Excerpt: "The extent of the Iraqi army's defeat at the hands of militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) became clear on Wednesday when officials in Baghdad conceded that insurgents had stripped the main army base in the northern city of Mosul of weapons."

ISIS militants near the central Iraqi city of Tikrit. (photo: AFP)
ISIS militants near the central Iraqi city of Tikrit. (photo: AFP)

Iraq Army Surrenders to ISIS Militants in Four Cities

By Martin Chulov, Fazel Hawramy and Spencer Ackerman, Guardian UK

12 June 14


Half a million people on the move after gunmen seize four cities and pillage army bases and banks

raq is facing its gravest test since the US-led invasion more than a decade ago, after its army capitulated to Islamist insurgents who have seized four cities and pillaged military bases and banks, in a lightning campaign which seems poised to fuel a cross-border insurgency endangering the entire region.

The extent of the Iraqi army's defeat at the hands of militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) became clear on Wednesday when officials in Baghdad conceded that insurgents had stripped the main army base in the northern city of Mosul of weapons, released hundreds of prisoners from the city's jails and may have seized up to $480m in banknotes from the city's banks.

Iraqi officials told the Guardian that two divisions of Iraqi soldiers – roughly 30,000 men – simply turned and ran in the face of the assault by an insurgent force of just 800 fighters. Isis extremists roamed freely on Wednesday through the streets of Mosul, openly surprised at the ease with which they took Iraq's second largest city after three days of sporadic fighting.

Senior government officials in Baghdad were equally shocked, accusing the army of betrayal and claiming the sacking of the city was a strategic disaster that would imperil Iraq's borders.

The developments seriously undermine US claims to have established a unified and competent military after more than a decade of training. The US invasion and occupation cost Washington close to a trillion dollars and the lives of more than 4,500 of its soldiers. It is also thought to have killed at least 100,000 Iraqis.

Early on Thursday the Sites monitoring group in the US said it had translated an audio statement by an Isis spokesman declaring that "the battle will rage in Baghdad and Karbala ... put on your belts and get ready". The New York Times, meanwhile, reported that Iraq last month secretly asked Barack Obama to consider bombing Sunni militant staging posts in Iraq.

In a day of extraordinary developments on Wednesday, Isis gunmen also encircled the city of Deir el-Zour across the border in Syria, kidnapped 80 Turkish citizens in two mass abductions, made advances in two other provinces and claimed to have successfully smuggled a huge weapons haul to eastern Syria's Hassaka province.

Isis fighters rode unopposed into Saddam Hussein's birthplace of Tikrit. There, as in Mosul the day before, they quickly set up checkpoints, sacked government buildings and filled trucks with weapons and cash, some of which were quickly dispatched to Syria.

Militants seized the Turkish consulate in Mosul and kidnapped the head of the diplomatic mission along with 24 staff members. A local police colonel told AFP he had spoken with the kidnappers who said those held "are safe with us" and would be moved to a "safer place". Turkish forces have targeted Isis forces in Syria.

Militants also destroyed a police station in Baiji, site of Iraq's largest refinery. Local officials said the insurgents withdrew after local tribal leaders persuaded them not to seize the refinery and power stations. At least half a million residents of northern Iraq are reported to be on the move, with most attempting to flee to the Kurdish far north where border officials were overwhelmed and expecting refugee numbers to increase sharply in coming days.

The UN said it was scrambling to deal with the crisis. Save the Children said: "We are witnessing one of the largest and swiftest mass movements of people in the world in recent memory. The majority of Iraqis fleeing Mosul had to escape in a matter of minutes."

As security unravelled in the country's north and centre, the radical Shia Islamic leader Moqtada al-Sadr threatened to reform the Mahdi army – a key protagonist in the sectarian war that nearly ripped Iraq apart in the wake of the US invasion. Militias had primacy nationwide during the worst of the war years and are once again ascendant as the Iraqi military's authority crumbles.

Foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari urged Kurdish and central government leaders to set aside their differences to deal with the "mortal threat" facing the country. Kurdish authorities were letting nearly all new arrivals enter in an early sign of closer than normal cooperation.

For a second day, the road between Mosul and Kirkuk was choked with cars full of families who described chaos in the city as troops beat an undignified retreat.

Abu Abdulla, a 55-year-old who had just arrived in Irbil, said: "Suddenly the army withdrew and there was no army nor police, just the militants; we don't know where they are from; they are masked."

So many soldiers had fled Mosul that the price of firearms plummeted as troops flooded the market with their service weapons, said Shirzad, a taxi driver at the border of Iraqi Kurdistan, who had been ferrying Iraqi army deserters from the checkpoint towards Kirkuk.

Isis released footage of large numbers of weapons and armoured military vehicles being received by members in eastern Syria, confirming fears that the looted weapons would fuel the insurgency on both sides of an increasingly irrelevant border. Sources in the Syrian city of Hassaka confirmed to the Guardian that large convoys of trucks carrying weapons arrived late on Tuesday and were met by a senior Isis figure, Omar al-Chechani.

Statements released by the group claimed that the assault on Mosul was the beginning of the end of the Sykes Picot agreement - the post-colonial settlement which in 1916 enshrined the nation states of Syria and Lebanon and influenced the drawing of the Jordan and Iraq borders. Isis commanders say they are fighting to destroy the post-Ottoman nation state borders and restore a caliphate that submits to fundamentalist Islamic law.

The group has been steadily building towards such an outcome, rampaging first through northern Syria and then back into Anbar province, the heartland of its earliest incarnation almost 10 years ago. Along the way, it has steadily accrued weapons and gained confidence, storming unopposed into towns and cities that were notionally protected by the best trained and armed military in the Arab world.

However, Mosul is by far its biggest prize so far: a gain that will seriously undermine Nour al-Maliki's efforts to be renominated as prime minister for a third term - and cripple the standing of the military, regarded for the past three years as the most important institution in the land. Any counter-offensive against Isis is expected to be led instead by Kurdish Peshmurga forces, which remain fiercely loyal to Kurdish leaders, but not to Baghdad.

A spokesperson for the Peshmurga, Brigadier General Halgord Hekmat, told the Guardian that "the sudden collapse of the Iraqi army has left us with no option but to fill some areas with our forces because we can't have a security vacuum on our border".

Maliki accused some senior military figures of "negligence" and "betrayal", attempting to deflect blame for the rout. As commander in chief, Maliki has ultimate responsibility for Iraq's armed forces and has presided over a series of spectacular defeats at the hands of Isis, starting last July when Abu Ghraib prison on Baghdad's western outskirts was overrun by the extremist group in a raid that freed several hundred convicted terrorists.

In December parts of Fallujah and Ramadi - both former al-Qaida strongholds - were retaken by the group, which has ever since deterred Iraqi forces from trying to re-enter the cities and maintained a withering insurgency in the nearby countryside.

"I know the reasons why the army collapsed," Maliki said. "But now is not the time to point the blame to whoever ordered the army to fall back. Even if it's a ploy, the generals who are responsible must be held accountable. A conspiracy has led Isis to occupy Mosul. Whoever is responsible will not get away with that they did."

Most of the weapons seized by Isis were taken from the al-Qayara base in Mosul, the fourth largest in the country, after two divisions of the Iraqi army fled the city en masse on Tuesday, allowing a far smaller extremist force to enter.

The haul included armoured humvees, rockets, tonnes of ammunition and assault weapons. Evidence of the large-scale desertion remained littered across the streets of the central city, with flak jackets, camouflage uniforms and ammunition clips being held up by insurgents as they celebrated their victory.

Hamad al-Mutlaq, a member of the Iraqi parliament's defence committee, said: "I'm convinced that what happened in Mosul is deliberate negligence or there is an agreement between the parties because it's impossible for an army to be unable to stand up to a group made up of hundreds of men."

"Isis can't have had more than a few thousand men versus two divisions made up of 30,000 Iraqi soldiers. This signifies that the army has been built on weak foundations. The Iraqi government is the one to blame and should be held responsible for this failure; it has been unable to build a healthy state and unable to defend it."

Atheel al-Nujaifi, governor of Ninevah province, who fled Mosul along with the city's chief of police, said on Wednesday Iraqi authorities were determined to recapture the northern city.

"Mosul is capable of getting back on its feet and getting rid of all the outsiders …and we have a plan to restore security," he said. "We have taken practical steps in order to restore order … by mobilising people into public committees that would retake the city."

Al-Mutlaq believes the city has been lost to Isis. "I don't think the government is able to retake Mosul. After eight years, it shows that all its plans have been faulty," he said.

Not all Mosul residents condemned the Isis rout. Ali Aziz, 35, a humanitarian worker, said: "We got statements by them confirming that they won't cause harm to anyone and all the minorities will be protected by them. They are really welcomed and we are so happy to have them rather than having Maliki's bloody, brutal forces.

"I feel we have been liberated of an awful nightmare that was suffocating us for 11 years. The army and the police never stopped arresting, detaining and killing people, let alone the bribes they were taken from the detainees' families.

"Me and my neighbours are waiting for the news that the other six Sunni protesting provinces falling in the hand of the Isis fighters to declare our Sunni region like the three provinces in Kurdistan."

Susan Rice, Obama's national security adviser, said the US would "ramp up" its support to the moderate Syrian opposition, Isis's ostensible rivals for control of the Syrian resistance to Bashar Assad. Assad's sponsors, the Iran government, hold significant influence over the Iraqi government that the US also supports. your social media marketing partner


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+10 # dsepeczi 2014-06-12 09:41
Brace yourselves for the "Obama is weak and this is proof that we shouldn't have withdrawn our troops" crowd. They'll be screaming from the rooftops with this news. But, really, these developments were expected by me all along. I've argued from the beginning in favor of a complete US withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and I still stand by that. This was bound to happen all along. There's a civil war going on over there between various radical elements of Islam and our presence there was only going to keep a relative peace there until we pull out and let them kill each other to settle it. To me, this would be true if we stay there another 10 years or another hundred years. It makes no difference.
+8 # harleysch 2014-06-12 10:32
It's not that Obama is "weak." It's that the policy of Bush and Cheney, of "regime change", has been continued under Obama, as in Libya, Syria and Ukraine, and it has failed. The fact that Susan Rice, who is Obama's National Security adviser, is calling for more aid to the opposition to Assad, shows that Obama is continuing the "regime change" doctrine, and has learned nothing from the chaos we have unleashed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, among other nations that have been targeted.

The solution is to CHANGE THE POLICY, drop "regime change," and get rid of everyone -- including Obama -- who thinks we can impose our version of "democracy", which is really nothing but corporatist fascism, by military means.
+6 # dsepeczi 2014-06-12 14:57
Quoting harleysch:
It's not that Obama is "weak." It's that the policy of Bush and Cheney, of "regime change", has been continued under Obama, as in Libya, Syria and Ukraine, and it has failed. The fact that Susan Rice, who is Obama's National Security adviser, is calling for more aid to the opposition to Assad, shows that Obama is continuing the "regime change" doctrine, and has learned nothing from the chaos we have unleashed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, among other nations that have been targeted.

The solution is to CHANGE THE POLICY, drop "regime change," and get rid of everyone -- including Obama -- who thinks we can impose our version of "democracy", which is really nothing but corporatist fascism, by military means.

Yes, I totally agree !
+8 # George D 2014-06-12 12:34
The military people are going to be saying that Obama "lost the war" by pulling us out too early? Too early?

Let's face it; While America struggles with a collapsing infrastructure and lost jobs, our Republican led Congress says "we can't afford...." well, ANYTHING at home.
But we can certainly afford to pay for the most expensive police force in the world to hang out in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect the legacy of GWB and Cheney; Forever if necessary.

I think we need to round up Bush, Cheney, Rummy, Rice and the rest of them and STRAND THEM IN IRAQ to fight "their" war themselves.

As for the troops that died in this misguided venture, I'm sorry to say that their lives were wasted. But I knew that they would be. I, just like many Americans, know how cheap life is when you wear a military uniform and how many soldiers died for nothing in Vietnam and other places.

They were "fighting for our freedom?" GIVE ME A BREAK. Are people THAT stupid? Of course they are.

Oh but; "Thank you for your service...."
+9 # reiverpacific 2014-06-12 11:36
"Mission Accomplished"!
Dimwits Bush, 1st May 2003!
+2 # JohnBoanerges 2014-06-12 12:56
Dear RP, Are you so sure he was wrong?
+3 # reiverpacific 2014-06-12 16:42
Quoting JohnBoanerges:
Dear RP, Are you so sure he was wrong?

Y'know, I did think of that myself so you must ha' read my devious mind. I was just referring to the disgusting grandstanding bullshit ceremony on the carrier with all the bunting and cheering naval personnel behind the strutting numbskull (He reminds me of the "Strutting Duce" as they used to refer to Mussolini -also a bit of a twit with a mean streak from all I've read).
I really dug the fact that Keith Olbermann did a daily countdown "Since the president declared "Mission accomplished" as US troops continued to be killed and Iraqis slaughtered as part of the opening of his daily show until MSNBC booted him off.
Certainly the "American century" crowd, of which he was just the figurehead (his daddy was one as was Cheney, Wolfowitz and co) had as part of it's plan the invasion and domination of seven Middle eastern nations, the last of which was Syria and the first Iran -but they tend to fight back a bit.
Michael Parenti has and idea or two about that too.
It's just that "Shock and Awe" was supposed to just last a week or two and Cheney and Co. anticipated that the US forces would be welcomed with "Flowers and bunting" or words to that effect.
Anyway, good and perceptive comment; thanks.
0 # JohnBoanerges 2014-06-13 10:03
I always read and think about your posts. Thanks very for that.
+4 # Activista 2014-06-12 12:25
The "new" liberators are made in Saudi Arabia - our 2nd friend in the Middle East ..
Iraq/Syria are punished for its neutrality/frie ndship towards Iran.
There will be no help for Maliki until his government "joins" war on Iran.
+1 # RMDC 2014-06-13 17:06
Thanks for this. A Sunni mercenary army organized and funded by the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia would be quite willing to take on Iran.

This article mentions that "we don't know who these guys are." Well, they are the same mercenaries that are fighting in Syria. They are a truly international meercenary army. They are from Chechnya, Afghanistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and all over. they are mercenaries, soldiers of fortune. There are no doubt a lot of US special forces with them.
+8 # geraldom 2014-06-12 12:30
I watched Democracy Now today where the situation in Iraq was discussed. The two guests that Amy Goodman had were Mohammed al Dulaimy, an Iraqi journalist who works for McClatchy Newspapers and who reported from Iraq for years, and Ned Parker, Reuters Baghdad Bureau Chief.

Both guests on the program stated in their own way that the U.S. must intercede. I find that ironic in that it was the U.S. who created the very mess that is Iraq today by its illegal invasion of the country for purposes of regime change and for control of its natural energy resources and, most important of all, to put in place as it has done innumerable times for so many decades, ever since the end of WWII, a puppet govt controlled by the United States.

Nouri al-Maliki is an illegitimate leader. Not only was the Iraq invasion under false pretenses illegal and very much against international law, so was the subsequent long term occupation of the country.

Under such an illegal occupation, the occupying power has no legal right to run elections of any kind. Any election in an occupied country, by definition is illegal and illegitimate.

The U.S. also had no right to force Iraq to privatize anything let alone its energy resources as it did and it had no legal right to build an abortion of an embassy in Baghdad occupied mostly by U.S. military forces and the CIA.

If the U.S. intercedes, it will just exacerbate the current situation. It will be another recruitment tool for the Islamic army.
+4 # Activista 2014-06-12 12:48
US will not interfere because right from the beginning the goal was to destroy Iraq/civil war.
Goal (of USrael) is to destroy Iran. Maliky was not happy with Israeli bombers crossing Iraq ....
War on Syria and now war on Iraq is a proxy war on Iran.
Obama accomplishment in this mess is that he is holding the line NOT to bomb Iran.
+5 # geraldom 2014-06-12 13:24
Activista, you're forgetting one important thing, the massive (and illegal) U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The last that I heard when the U.S. allegedly left Iraq was that there was about 16000 (give or take) people working out of that embassy, most of them probably military and/or CIA.

The U.S. will have no choice but to do something if the Islamic army moving south makes it into Baghdad. The U.S. will either have to intercede if that happens in order to protect the U.S. embassy, or the U.S. will have to vacate the embassy altogether and remove everyone working there out of the country.
+4 # Activista 2014-06-12 17:01
US fortress (aka embassy) in Baghdad is the issue.
US invasive troops moved to Kuwait. We will see what is a priority - destroyed Iraq and Iran or US Embassy.
+3 # geraldom 2014-06-12 17:51
Quoting Activista:
US fortress (aka embassy) in Baghdad is the issue.
US invasive troops moved to Kuwait. We will see what is a priority - destroyed Iraq and Iran or US Embassy.

By the way, Activista, one might say that this is off-topic based on the title of this article, but I don't think so since the United States used White Phosphorous, an illegal chemical weapon by international law against the people of Falluja when it still (officially) had U.S. forces in Iraq.

FYI, on RT News, the Kiev government (or perhaps U.S./NATO forces in conjunction with Kiev) dropped White Phosphorous bombs onto Slavansk last night. It's officially on video. The Kiev government claims they didn't do it, and they may be telling the truth (in a way) if it was U.S./NATO forces or private mercenary forces like Blackwater that did it, but who knows who actually did it.

You've heard of the term plausible deniability, haven't you? Perhaps the Kiev government itself did not actually drop this illegal weapon on the city of Slavansk which burns people alive inside and out and not very quickly, but I'm sure that they authorized it and it was done by whatever private proxy military they have in their country to help them fight the rebels in the east.

So, again, I ask the same question. Where in hell is Vladimir Putin?
+2 # Activista 2014-06-13 00:29
I read
I found mostly objective - but it will be almost political suioicide for Ukraine goverment to use posphorus (chemical weapons).
"I ask the same question. Where in hell is Vladimir Putin"
Putin is destroying credibility of NATO ... and doing great job. NATO is relic of the cold war
... for both Russia and EU economy is more important than USA geopolitical interest. EU is looking at 50% higher gas prices ... oligarchs rule - people pay ..
0 # geraldom 2014-06-13 08:50
Anything that the United States does which is illegal by international law, and the list would be endless on this matter, or anything that some other country does that has military and political backing by the United States, in this case Ukraine, that is illegal by international law, cannot, by definition, commit political suicide. They are protected by the U.S. and are therefore shielded from the U.N. and from the Human Rights Council.

I watched the video in the article you referenced and I always find it convenient on how U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki always has information available, on hand, on what the U.S. considers violations by the Ukrainian rebels which, the vast majority of the time are lies and innuendos, and alleged violations by Russia, but never has any information available by the daily violations of international law by the Ukraine government against civilians in eastern Ukraine.

The one gentleman who seems to have the balls to question Jen Psaki on violations of international law by the Ukraine government seems to have been rendered toothless. Sometime back, he seemed somewhat more aggressive in his questions of Jen Psaki, but lately he seems to come across in a very weak manner as if someone had spoke to him about his attitude at these news briefings.

Activista, I hope that you do agree that the Ukraine government did in fact drop White Phosphorous weapons on Slavansk and are not questioning the fact that it really happened.
0 # Activista 2014-06-13 10:48
"Activista, I hope that you do agree that the Ukraine government did in fact drop White Phosphorous weapons on Slavyansk and are not questioning the fact that it really happened."
We have electronic intifada (propaganda) on both sides - Russians brought the bombing of Eastern cities to UN -
0 # geraldom 2014-06-13 09:03
One other point. The use of White Phosphorus weapons is strictly against international law, even using it against an army that you may be fighting. It's illegal to use chemical weapons period in any theater of war.

It will be interesting to see if the U.S. were to intervene in Iraq at the behest of its puppet leader in Baghdad, Nouri al-Maliki, whether or not they will use illegal chemical weapons, such as White Phosphorous, against ISIS, or perhaps even illegal radiological weapons such as Depleted Uranium (DU) as they did in massive amounts in both Iraq (when the U.S. still officially occupied the country) and Afghanistan.
0 # geraldom 2014-06-13 09:01
0 # RMDC 2014-06-13 17:20
Yes, the US can do no good in Iraq. It has been trying to destroy Iraq from the day Saddam took power in 1979. It will do the same this time.

In reality, the mercenaries who took over the city of Mosul are funded and armed by the US and Saudi Arabia. If the US wanted to help, it could call these mercenaries off. It could stop paying them and they would go home. But the US wants them to destroy utterly all Arab or Muslim nations, except for Saudi Arabia and the oil Emirates in the Gulf.
+5 # vt143 2014-06-12 18:48
Ironic, isn't it? From Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and gaping, grinning idiot Kristol's adolescent wet dream of hegemony in a manufactured war against a made up Islamic threat in Iraq we now end up with an honest-to-goodn ess Islamic threat worse than Al-Qaeda. Well done you spineless a**holes.
+1 # Activista 2014-06-13 00:41
".. fight against Sunni militias that jihadists in Iraq ... enjoy support from one of America's closest allies in the region, Saudi Arabia. The ruling family of the kingdom has long been accused of supplying jihadists all over the region with arms and financial support .."
USA will bomb jihadists and IRANian troops could help defend Baghdad ... what a grotesque situation ....
+3 # Kootenay Coyote 2014-06-13 07:22
Islamist Castling on the grand Chessboard. The Bushzis wanted destabilization in the Near & Middle East, & now they have it...but not quite as planned.
0 # phrixus 2014-06-14 05:39
Enjoy "Vietnam - The Sequel." Now playing in a middle eastern country near you.

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