Iraq struggles to drive back Sunni militants

2014-07-03 13:01
An armoured vehicle belonging to Iraqi security forces in flames, after hundreds of militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) launched a major assault on the security forces in Mosul. (STR, AFP)

An armoured vehicle belonging to Iraqi security forces in flames, after hundreds of militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) launched a major assault on the security forces in Mosul. (STR, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Baghdad - Baghdad's forces struggled on Thursday to break a military stalemate with Sunni militants, as US officials reached out to key leaders to push for an end to political chaos in Iraq.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has offered an amnesty aimed at undercutting support for the militants who have overrun large areas of Iraq, after the new parliament's first session ended in farce, with MPs walking out instead of working on government formation.

With calls for politicians to come together unsuccessful, Washington contacted Iraqi and regional players individually, with President Barack Obama calling Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and Vice President Joe Biden talking to former Iraqi parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a prominent Sunni leader.

The White House said Biden and Nujaifi agreed on the importance of Iraqis "moving expeditiously to form a new government capable of uniting the country".

Secretary of State John Kerry meanwhile phoned Kurdish leader Massud Barzani and stressed the important role the Kurds could play in a new unity government in Baghdad, seen as vital to meeting the challenge of Islamic State (IS) jihadists, who have led the militant offensive, spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

Maliki's amnesty call appeared to be a bid to split the broad alliance of jihadists, loyalists of executed dictator Saddam Hussein and anti-government tribes waging the offensive.

"I announce the provision of amnesty for all tribes and all people who were involved in actions against the state" but who now "return to their senses," Maliki said, excluding those involved in killings.

'No longer business as usual'

Maliki's announcement came a day after an eagerly awaited opening to the Council of Representatives descended into chaos and ended in disarray without a speaker being elected.

UN special envoy Nickolay Mladenov said Iraqi politicians "need to realise that it is no longer business as usual".

Under a de facto agreement, Iraq's premier is a Shi’ite Arab, the speaker Sunni Arab and the president a Kurd.

Presiding MP Mahdi Hafez said the legislature would reconvene on July 8 if leaders were able to agree on senior posts.

In another sign of political discord, Maliki on Wednesday rejected an assertion by the autonomous Kurdish region that its control of disputed territory is here to stay.

Barzani has said Kurdish forces would maintain control of disputed areas into which they have moved during the militant offensive, and that a referendum will be held in the coming months on independence for Kurdish region.

On the ground, Iraqi forces were struggling to break a stalemate with militants after initially wilting before the onslaught. They have since performed better, albeit with limited offensive success.

A police lieutenant colonel said security forces on Thursday clashed with militants near Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, which they have been unsuccessfully fighting to retake in a highly-touted operation for over a week.

The cost of the conflict has been high for Iraq's forces, with nearly 900 security personnel among 2 400 people killed in June, the highest figure in years, according to the United Nations.

'Advancing slowly'

The day before, Salaheddin province's governor, Ahmed Abdullah Juburi, said security forces were "advancing slowly because all of the houses and burned vehicles [en route to Tikrit] have been rigged with explosives, and militants have deployed lots of roadside bombs and car bombs."

Juburi said it would be days before security forces could make a concerted push into the city, the capital of Salaheddin province.

Maliki's security spokesperson also told reporters that loyalists had clashed with militants south of Baghdad.

In an effort to break the stand-off, the government has bought more than a dozen Sukhoi warplanes from Russia, announcing on Tuesday that a second group of five aircraft had arrived in Iraq, implicitly as part of that deal.

But the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies said the three Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack jets shown landing in Iraq in a video released on Tuesday by the defence ministry are likely from Iran, which has pledged to aid Iraq against the militants.

IISS also noted that most of Iran's Su-25s are actually from the air force of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, with seven Iraqi planes having escaped east during the Gulf War in 1991.
Read more on:    un  |  isis  |  barack obama  |  nuri al-maliki  |  john kerry  |  iraq

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.