Militants press Iraq assault, political deadlock

2014-07-15 12:19
Iraqi armed Shi'ite militiamen parade in Kirkuk. (Hussein Malla, AP)

Iraqi armed Shi'ite militiamen parade in Kirkuk. (Hussein Malla, AP)

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

Baghdad - Iraq's flagging government formation process seemed set to drag on Tuesday as police and tribesmen were battling an assault that could bring militants a step closer to Baghdad.

World powers and Iraq's top Shi’ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, have piled pressure on MPs to put aside their differences, with the country facing a major jihadist-led onslaught that has overrun territory in the north and west, but progress has so far been noticeably lacking.

US media was reporting that a Pentagon assessment of Iraqi security forces has reached some bleak conclusions.

According to The New York Times, the assessment warned that any American troops serving as advisers would face safety risks given infiltration of the Iraqi army by Sunni extremists and Iran-backed Shi’ite troops or militia.

Citing US officials, the newspaper said the classified assessment also found that only about half of the Iraqi army's units are capable enough to be worth advising by American troops.

Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadist group meanwhile attacked on Monday the final area still outside their control in the town of Dhuluiyah, just 80km north of Baghdad, after a first assault a day earlier.

The militants negotiated with tribesmen in the holdout Al-Jubur area, offering to spare the lives of their fighters and security forces if they surrendered, local official Marwan Mitaab said.

But the tribesmen rejected the offer, and the militants then launched a renewed assault on the area in southern Dhuluiyah.

One of the tribal fighters, Omar al-Juburi, said that they have held out for 48 hours, but need "reinforcements and air cover to restore control over the town".

He later added that fighters were still resisting but were running short of ammunition.

Violence also struck other areas on Monday, with two car bombs exploding in Baghdad and a roadside bomb striking a nearby area, killing at least seven people, officials said.

A suicide bomber detonated explosives in the Khanaqin area, northeast of the capital, killing three Kurdish peshmerga fighters, while an Iraqi air strike hit a house in Baiji, north of Baghdad, killing three civilians.

In the second city of Mosul, captured by ISIL last month, two nuns and three orphans who had been held there were freed on Monday, Iraq's top Catholic leader said.

Parliament postponement likely

As Iraqis fought and died, an MP said a parliament session scheduled for Tuesday seemed likely to be postponed, which would further delay any progress towards forming a government.

"The atmosphere points to postponement," said Hussein al-Maliki, an MP from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's bloc, adding that "the blocs are still not in agreement".

Parliament has twice met to elect a speaker, a post that must be filled before the government formation process can move forward, but failed both times.

Acting speaker Mahdi Hafez announced at the last session on Sunday that "no type of agreement was reached... between the various blocs," after which the session was adjourned until on Tuesday.

A 1 July meeting broke down when MPs traded barbs and enough failed to return after a break that the legislature was left short of a quorum.

The UN's Iraq envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, has warned that "failing to move forward on electing a new speaker, a new president and a new government risks plunging the country into chaos".

Former prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, speaking on Sunday about Tuesday's planned session, said: "If we can't agree within those 48 hours, we still won't agree in 48 days".

Prospects dim

But calls for progress have gone unheeded, and prospects appear dim for any speedy resolution of seemingly intractable differences over key appointments and other issues.

Ties between the Baghdad government and Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region have hit a new low, and Maliki has pledged to seek a third term despite some lawmakers insisting he step aside.

The Kurdish region's government has laid claim to disputed northern oilfields, having earlier taken control of other contested areas abandoned by Iraqi forces last month as they fled a sweeping ISIL-led offensive.

Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani has also called for a vote on outright independence.

Maliki has accused the Kurds of exploiting the insurgent offensive and harbouring militants, while the Kurds say Baghdad is unfairly withholding their share of oil revenues and have called for him to step down.

Maliki, a Shi’ite Arab viewed by opponents as a divisive and sectarian leader, has no plans to do so, despite eroding political support and thinly veiled calls for change from Washington.

The 64-year-old premier and his coalition partners dominated elections in April, and there is no obvious consensus candidate to replace him.
Read more on:    is  |  isil  |  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.