Al Qaeda-linked Sunni militants from the Islamic State of Iraq in Syria captured key two border crossings on Sunday — including one that leads from Iraq directly into Jordan. The other is a crossing into Syria.
Jordanian officials have been dreading this possibility for weeks and monitoring the situation across the border for some time.
The terrorist group has also seized four more towns, further broadening the wide swathe of territory already under its control. That band of ISIS-controlled land now spreads from nearly all of northern Iraq, to the eastern part of the country, and beginning to bleed down to the south, and into the west – where Jordan lies.
Beyond Jordan, ISIS hopes to eventually reach the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza and then finally Israel. Less than a month ago, terrorists from the group kidnapped a Turkish consul in Tikrit and 80 Turkish citizens. Many are still being held hostage.
The terrorist group’s dream of carving out an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or an Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL) as it is called in Iraq, is rapidly advancing.
A top military intelligence official in Iraq told CBC News on condition of anonymity that the militants’ objective is Baghdad, “where we are working frantically to bolster our defenses.” But the Iraqi military is badly outgunned, he admitted. “I will be honest with you,” he said. “Even that is not up to the level of what is needed. Morale is low.”
Jihadists from neighboring Arab nations – as well as from European countries and even from as far away as the United States – are being drawn to the battle as flies to honey and are traveling to join the conflict, as in the past they traveled to fight in Syria.
Those who have already acquired their objectives in Iraq are now supplying their fellow jihadists in Syria with weaponry won in recent battles to fight in the civil war across the border – or at least, until there is no border.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has served in office since 2006, has not given any indication he intends to step down. But as he did in Cairo, U.S. President Barack Obama has sent signals he no longer supports the Iraqi leader during the crisis, although he agreed t osend 300 military advisers to retrain Iraqi troops. Obama also said he might consider air strikes to support the Iraqi military, but did not make any commitments.
With Iran opposing American involvement, it seems likely Obama will drag his heels as much as possible, fearing to intervene and offend Iranian sensibilities.
The new Iraqi parliament, set to meet by the end of this month, is expected to elect a speaker and a new president. The president-elect will then ask the leader who wins a simple majority of the 328-member parliament to form the new government.
During the most recent election, al-Maliki’s ‘State of the Law’ party won the most mandates – 92 – but it is not enough to pull a majority for a new coalition government, especially in light of the current crisis.
Hana Levi Julian