The militant group also made significant gains on the other side of the frontier, bringing them closer to accomplishing their aim of creating an Islamic state straddling national borders. However, media advisor to the commander of Iraq’s anti-terrorist squad Sameer al-Shwiali told Reuters that al-Qaim had not yet fallen to ISIS militants.
The border town is located on a strategic supply route, the loss of which would be a significant blow to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. ISIS has capitalized on the ongoing civil war in Syria to gather weapons and thousands of fresh recruits from around the world. Full control of the border zone would mean potential free passage from Syria into Iraq for the militants.
To counter the swelling ranks of the Sunni militants, Iraq’s government has officially asked the White House to deploy airstrikes in the region. In response, the White House issued a statement, saying there was no purely military solution to Iraq’s problems, and that it would consider a range of options.
As a preliminary measure, the US has deployed 300 additional military personnel to Baghdad to “assess how we can best train, advise and support Iraqi security forces going forward.”
Obama also voiced criticism of Iraq’s leadership, suggesting that Al-Maliki has endangered the country by ignoring the needs of the country’s Sunni population.
“I don’t think that there’s any secret that, right now at least, there is deep division between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish leaders,” Obama said Thursday. In addition, the Wall Street Journal reported that Washington was preparing to consult with the Iranian government over a solution to the crisis in Iraq.
The ISIS-led militants began to show signs of fragmentation on Saturday as fighters from ISIS and the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandiyah (JRTN) turned on each other in Kirkuk. At least 17 people were killed in the ensuing violence.