Published on 19 Jun 2014
Insurgents with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria continue their offensive in Iraq, capturing more cities and inching closer to Baghdad. The militants also reportedly massacred 1,700 Iraqi security forces over the weekend, posting pictures online of a mass execution in Tikrit. Jesse Ventura discusses the crisis in Iraq in this interview.
Iraq has asked the US to stage air attacks on Sunni insurgents as the Islamist fighters edged closer to full control of Iraq’s largest oil refinery and continued to hold out against troops trying to retake the city of Tal Afar.
As the war to redefine the region’s borders entered a second week, Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, appeared on al-Arabiya television to issue the urgent plea: “We request the United States to launch air strikes against militants.”
Witnesses at the Baiji refinery — between the cities of Mosul and Tikrit, both seized by the insurgent group last week — said insurgents broke through the perimeter of the site early on Wednesday and were within sight of administration buildings.
Their advance comes despite fierce resistance from Iraqi troops stationed at the refinery. There were reports that foreign security contractors had been sent to Baiji to protect what is one of Iraq’s most important strategic assets. Many plant workers have been evacuated to Baghdad.
Losing control of Baiji would be a critical blow to Iraqi forces still reeling from the capitulation of close to 50,000 troops last week, many of whom have since been replaced by militias raised from the country’s majority Shia population.
In Washington, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, confirmed the US had received the request for air strikes. “We have a request from the Iraqi government for air power,” Dempsey, told a Wednesday morning Senate hearing.
Obama is said to still be weighing military options, and US officials for days have quietly signalled that a decision is not imminent. But it will be harder for Obama to rebuke a formal entreaty from a besieged US partner, albeit a frustrating one.
However, Dempsey also told senators that the fluid state of the Iraqi battlefield has left the US with incomplete intelligence — a factor that makes an air campaign more difficult. “It’s not as easy as looking at an iPhone video of a convoy and then striking it,” Dempsey said.
Reuters reported that US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Iraq’s request had included a call for drone strikes and increased surveillance by US drones, which have been flying over Iraq for some time. The Pentagon has said it stepped up surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance efforts, at Baghdad’s request.
In an interview with the Guardian, the Iraqi ambassador to the US, Lukman Faily, said the situation was critical, and warned of further bloodshed if Isis was not repelled. “Wherever they have the possibility, they will cleanse minorities, ethnic cleansing,” he said. “Look at Mosul. They went into prisons, they executed the Shiite prisoners. They went into Mosul and they executed the Sunni imams who were reluctant about handing over their mosques to them. So what does that tell you? It tells you that they cannot coexist with others.”