Baghdad looks to be the first place where Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters meet serious resistance on their blitzkrieg through Iraq. However, this has not stopped the Al Qaeda splinter group’s forces from announcing their intended goals. In a video publicly released Thursday night, the jihadi fighters were seen shouting, “Towards Baghdad!”
ISIL’s Twitter page said the group had executed 1,700 Shia Iraqi soldiers as of late Thursday. The group’s social media page proudly displayed an image of a decapitated head, tweeting, “this is our football” with the hashtag #WorldCup.
Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the country’s most senior Shia cleric, called upon his fellow Shiites to take up arms and defend Baghdad from the Sunni ISIL insurgents. “Citizens who are able to bear arms and fight terrorists, defending their country and their people and their holy places, should volunteer and join the security forces to achieve this holy purpose,” said Sistani’s spokesman during Friday prayers.
Iran Revolutionary Guard soldiers and their Quds special forces unit have reportedly moved into Iraq, readying their troops to defend the pro-Iranian government of Shia Prime Minister Maliki against the Sunni ISIL terrorist group.
Some have reported that Sunni-Shia clashes have commenced in two different areas in Iraq’s eastern province of Diyala.
The Iraqi security forces have begun to prepare for the seemingly inevitable ISIL offensive into Baghdad. Brigadier General Saad Maan told AFP, “We put in place a new plan to protect Baghdad. The plan consists of intensifying the deployment of forces and increasing intelligence efforts and the use of technology, such as observation balloons and cameras and other equipment.”
On Thursday, President Obama said that he would not rule out any measures, besides putting troops on the ground, to counter the advances of ISIL. Obama believed that the United States may have a role to play. “We do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold,” said the President.
CNN reported Friday that the Pentagon was deciding to move the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf.
In a press conference at noon on Friday, President Obama seemed in no rush to get involved. He declared, “I have asked my national security council team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraq security forces, and I’ll be reviewing those options in the days ahead.” He continued, “Iraq’s leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together.” As the ISIL continue their march towards Baghdad, the President said he intended to “pursue intensive diplomacy.”