The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a jihadist group formerly affiliated with al Qaeda, is in the midst of a horrifying takeover of Iraq that threatens to overtake the nation’s government completely. As the terrorists march toward Baghdad, their rhetoric against the government has become increasingly inflamed.
ISIS has vowed to take power over the state away from President Nouri al-Maliki. In cities like Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, and Tikrit, home of former head of state Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi army has all but abandoned citizens to ISIS’s seige, overwhelmed by its attacks.
Members of ISIS have not been ambiguous as to their intentions in Iraq. In a statement released Wednesday, ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani vowed that “the battle is not yet raging, but it will rage in Baghdad and Karbala.” Adnani made clear the group’s disdain for Maliki, whom he called an “underwear salesman.” “You lost a historic opportunity for your people to control Iraq, and the Shiites will always curse you for as long as they live,” the group taunts in its statement celebrating the takeover of several cities.
Maliki has made clear that the Iraqi army is entirely overwhelmed by the assault. The White House, which has repeatedly promised to support the Iraqi government despite having withdrawn its military presence in 2011, has called for Maliki to “step up to the plate” and fight the ISIS invasion himself, though whether the Iraqi army is capable of doing so is up for debate. Former White House adviser on Iraq Douglas Ollivant noted on Australia’s ABC The World Today this week that, while the Obama administration had promised a prepared Iraqi army at the time they left, the army they left was prepared for only minor attacks and scuffles from jihadists. What they are facing from ISIS now, he warned, “is essentially an invasion from Syria of an extremely well-trained, well-armed, well-equipped, highly motivated, blooded force that has been learning from Hezbollah the last two or three years how to fight this kind of fight.”
Maliki has called upon Kurdish forces to help keep Iraq out of the hands of militant jihadists, who retook the city of Kirkuk after Iraqi soldiers left the area completely open to ISIS attack. Maliki has also called for the United States military to return to Iraq, according to a report in the New York Times. The Iraqi government, the report claims, “floated the idea” of having American drones enter Iraq and eliminate dangerous jihadist elements in the country, but the United States declined to lend such aid, as “administration spokesmen have insisted that the United States is not actively considering using warplanes or armed drones to strike [jihadist havens].”