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Iraq Blog

Sunni fighters led by group known as the Islamic State have overrun large areas of western and northern Iraq. Follow Al Jazeera's live blog for the latest updates and information.


  • While ISIL fights secular groups in Syria, in Iraq it has allied itself with former Baathists and other nationalist factions. Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid looks at why many Sunni factions are fighting alongside ISIL, and whether the coalition against the Iraqi government can last.

  • Iraq has received a delivery of Sukhoi fighter jets it hopes will bolster attempts to combat a Sunni rebellion that has taken over large parts of the country. Read more here.

  • This video posted on YouTube on Saturday appears to show government building in Tikrit in control of Sunni rebels, contrary to claims made by Iraqi state TV.

    A voice of a man is heard saying that local tribesmen were in control in the area.

    Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the veracity of the images.

  • Al Jazeera's Imran Khan briefly summarises the human cost of the current crisis in Iraq:
    • 1.2 million people have fled. 
    • The UN says it needs $312m to cope. 
    • They have about 15 percent of that with a further 5 percent pledged. 
    • The registration of the displaced that have fled since Mosul fell is still ongoing.
    You can get the latest updates from Imran on Twitter @ajimran and watch the latest on Iraq and all our other stories on our live stream here.
  • A hundred years after it started, the consequences of the First World War continue to be felt in the Middle East, as ISIL sets about realising its vision of removing the borders that were defined in its aftermath.

    The boundaries of the modern Middle East were drawn up after the war ended by French diplomat Francois Georges-Picot and British officer Sir Mark Sykes, out of territory lost by the Ottoman Empire.

    Al Jazeera's Dominic Kane explains.

  • Iraqis flee to Jordan for medical treatment.

  • Al Jazeera's Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad, says both the Iraqi army and Sunni rebels in Tikrit are preparing for a big government push to retake the city.

    Government forces have currently taken positions in villages and suburbs on the outskirts of Tikrit, and Sunni fighters led by ISIL are fortifying their positions in anticipation of an assault.

    Iraqi forces are backed by helicopter gunships and tanks, but the rebels, some of whom were former officer under the Baathist regime, are expected to benefit from their knowledge of local terrain and military experience.

    [Al Jazeera] 



  • Our correspondent Imran Khan has provided us with some context on the Iraqi Air Force's ability to fly the Russian-made Sukhoi-25 jets;


    Who is going to fly the Russian planes? Well the Iraqis know how. The new planes add to 100 Iraqi jets, that include Sukhoi bombers, MiGs that the IAF already have. Now some of these have come back from Iran, when fleeing fighter pilots landed there jets there after the 1991 gulf war. It's not a modern airforce by any stretch, but the Iraqis are hoping it'll be effective one.



  • LATEST on the battle for Tikrit: Reports on what the Iraqi government has to say vary. Residents of Tikrit said that the Sunni rebels were still in control of the city while the Iraqi officials maintained that they entered the city. 

    After the university conflict, the military claimed that they had taken over the university but ISIL holds that they successfully fought off the attack. 
  • Afzal Ashraf, who was involved with training Iraqi forces, talks about the challenges faces security forces face in tackling the ISIL-led Sunni rebellion in Iraq.

  • Iran is ready to help Iraq fight an armed revolt using the same methods it deployed against opposition forces in Syria, an Iranian general has said, suggesting Tehran is offering to take a larger role in battling Sunni fighters threatening Baghdad.

    Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri, deputy joint chief of staff of the armed forces and a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officer, told Iran's al Alam television that Iran's response to the militias would be "certain and serious".

    Jazayeri's remarks late on Saturday did not provide details on the assistance Iran could give Baghdad, beyond saying Iran could help with what he called popular defence and intelligence, Reuters news agency reported.

    "Iran has told Iraqi officials it is ready to provide them with our successful experiments in popular all-around defence, the same winning strategy used in Syria to put the terrorists on the defensive ... This same strategy is now taking shape in Iraq - mobilising masses of all ethnic groups," he told the television station.

    "A response is certain and serious," he said. "With Syria, too, we announced we would not allow terrorists in the hire of foreign intelligence services to rule and dictate to Syrian people. We will certainly have the same approach with Iraq."

    Jazayeri said Iran would deal with Iraq on defence, security, border control and fortifications. To help Iraq, he said, Iran would monitor the situation in the region, as it had done "in Syria and other troubled areas in the region". 
  • From Reuters: Iraq's National Coalition which is led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has announced that it will abstain from attending the first parliamentary session which is scheduled for July 1, and will continue to distance itself from further sessions unless the political powers created a "road map to stop the security deterioration and heal country's rift".
  • In Baghdad, threatened by the rebel advance, top Shia, Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers scrambled to agree cabinet nominations before parliament meets on Tuesday to try to prevent the rebel advance threatening Iraq's future as a unitary state.

    They are racing against time as ISIL-led Sunni fighters consolidate their grip on the north and west.

    Maliki's political future will be the most contentious issue.

    Politicians are under pressure to speed up the normally sluggish process of selecting a new government to face the crisis. A parliament elected in April is due to be seated on Tuesday to begin the process. 

    In a statement on Sunday, the United Nations mission in Iraq urged all representatives to attend the session on Tuesday and move forward with selecting a new government.

    "Faced with a national crisis, the political leaders of Iraq should put the interests of the country and its people before everything else," Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq Nickolay Mladenov said in the statement.

    [Reuters]
  • Kuwait has said on Sunday that it is sending urgent humanitarian aid to thousands of Iraqis who have been displaced by ongoing fighting in neighbouring Iraq, AFP reported.

    "The council of ministers decided to send urgent humanitarian aid to Iraqis who have been displaced as a result of deteriorating security situation," the cabinet said in a statement.

    The statement said the aid would be distributed through the United Nations. It did not specify the amount of aid.

    International organisations have urged the establishment of humanitarian corridors to provide aid amid the fighting, with 1.2 million people having been displaced by unrest this year in Iraq.
  • The leaders of Shia Iran and Sunni Qatar vowed to cooperate to fight "terrorism in the region", the office of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani reported on Sunday.

    The pledge to play a "constructive role to establish security and stability" came in a phone call between Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Rouhani, a statement from the office said.

    Rouhani said that in order to defeat "the hurdle of terrorism and extremism... all Muslims should come hand in hand and cooperate," it said.

    Iran is ready, he said, to do just that and "fight security problems and instability in the region" that benefit only "Zionists and the enemies of the Muslim world". He did not elaborate.

    The statement said the Qatari emir noted "the necessity for cooperation between Muslim nations to prevent the further spread of (the Iraqi) crisis in the region".

    "We should all cooperate together against terrorism in the region because the current crisis is very dangerous," he said.

    [AFP]


  • Fighters in Syria and Iraq have announced the establishment of a "caliphate", referring to the system of rule that ended nearly 100 years ago with the fall of the Ottoman empire.

    In an audio recording distributed online on Sunday, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) declared its chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as "the caliph" and "leader for Muslims everywhere".

    Baghdadi is believed to be the leader of ISIL, which announced that it is now called "The Islamic State".

    According to the statement, the new caliphate stretches from Iraq's Diyala province to Syria's Aleppo.

    Al Jazeera's Imran Khan reporting from the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, said that a caliphate is effectively an Islamic Republic led by one leader, regardless of national boundaries.

    With the announcement, the armed group is declaring that they are now legitimate, declaring the caliphate as the "true muslim state", he said.

    The announcement might bring up problems with other Sunni fighters in Iraq, who are fighting the central government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and not fighting for the caliphate, our correspondent said.



  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the international community on Sunday to support Jordan in the fight  against "Islamic extremism" and to back the independence of Iraq's Kurds.

    "We need to support efforts by the international community to strengthen Jordan and support the aspirations of the Kurds for independence," Netanyahu said in a speech to the Institute of National Security Studies think-tank in Tel Aviv.

    "I think it's our common interest to make sure that a moderate, stable regime like (Jordan) is able to defend itself."

    His remarks follow reports in Israeli media that officials in Tel Aviv fear Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants may extend their control to areas of Jordan after seizing parts of Iraq in recent weeks. 

    [AP]
  • Good morning from Doha. For those of you catching up with the latest on Iraq, may I present the official announcement of the creation of the "Islamic State", in English, by the group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. 

    You can read it here




  • Here’s the key text, cleaned up a bit:

    Therefore, the shura council of the Islamic State studied this matter after the Islamic State - by God’s grace - gained the essentials necessary for the caliphate, which the Muslims are sinful for if they do not try to establish.

    In light of the fact that the Islamic State has no legal constraint or excuse … delaying or neglecting the establishment of the caliphate such that it would not be sinful, the Islamic State – represented by its senior figures, leaders … resolved to announce the establishment of the Islamic caliphate [and] the appointment of a caliph for the Muslims, and the pledge of allegiance to the sheikh, the fighter, the scholar who practices what he preaches, the worshipper, the leader, the warrior, the reviver, descendant from the family of the Prophet, the slave of God, Ibrahim Ibn Awwad Ibn Ibrahim Ibn Ali Ibn Muhammad al-Badri al-Hashimi al-Husayni al-Qurashi by lineage, as-Samurrai by birth and upbringing, al-Baghdadi by residence and scholarship. 

    [This is the full name of the leader of the Islamic State, and a reference to his chosen name, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi]

    And he has accepted the pledge of allegiance. Thus, he is the imam and caliph for the Muslims everywhere.

    Accordingly, the “Iraq and Sham” in the name of the Islamic State is henceforth removed from all official deliberations and communications, and the official name is the Islamic State from the date of this declaration.

  • To hint at the scale of the media operation behind the Islamic State group, the document is translated into English, French, Russian and German.

    Another rather colourful passage from the document:

    So rush, oh Muslims, and gather around your caliph, so that you may return as you once were for ages, kings of the earth and knights of war. Come so that you may be honoured and esteemed, living as masters with dignity.

    Know that we fight over a religion that Allah promised to support. We fight for a ummah [a nation of Muslims] to which God has given honour, esteem, and leadership, promising it with empowerment and strength on the earth. Come, oh Muslims, to your honour, to your victory.

    By God, if you disbelieve in democracy, secularism, nationalism, as well as all the other garbage and ideas from the West, and rush to your religion and creed, then by God you will own the earth, and the east and west will submit to you.

     This is the promise of God to you.

  • These pictures, posted on Twitter, show Islamic State supporters in Raqqa, Syria, celebrating the announcement.

     
     

    1 of 5

  • Imran Khan, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Baghdad, says that Sunni rebels in charge of Tikrit and other cities in Iraq have been asked  to ‎pledge allegiance to the Islamic State.

    So far they've not reacted.

  • Our correspondent Imran Khan in Baghdad says that Islamic State social media accounts are sharing an updated flag after the group declared it was establishing a caliphate on Sunday.

    The new design remains the same as previous versions except for the addition of the name "State of the Islamic caliphate" in calligraphic font below the emblem in the centre.

    The Islamic State's new flag 


    by Shafik.Mandhai edited by Graeme Baker 6/30/2014 6:25:16 AM
  • The effect of the announcement is likely to further the schism between the traditional al-Qaeda leadership and leaders of the Islamic State.

    Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Centre who has written extensively on Syria, said the announcement posed "huge threat to al-Qaeda and its long-time position of leadership of the international jihadist cause".

    Baghdadi publicly criticised al-Qaeda's leadership early this  year for not implementing Osama bin Laden's political ambitions to establish a new caliphate, and declared himself the true heir to his legacy.
  • More from the Islamic State's announcement, this time from the audio statement posted yesterday:

    "The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organisations becomes null by the expansion of the caliph's authority and the arrival of its troops to their areas. Listen to your caliph and obey him. Support your state, which grows every day.''

    And with that, the Islamic State is effectively saying it considers itself a greater authority than all other Arab and Muslim rulers.
  • Some early thoughts on the caliphate announcement, from the journalist Yassin Musharbash:

    * ISIL stresses the lack of legitimacy of existing Muslim states.
    * It believes that a critical mass of Muslims sympathises with them.
    This is something that Baghdadi can do once, and only once. 
    * The declaration is direct challenge to the leaders of Jordan and Morocco, who are widely considered to be actual descendants of the Prophet Mohammed

  • Just out of interest this is the last caliph, the Ottoman Abdulmecid II, who reigned from 1922 to 1924. 


     
  • This video, the "End of Sykes-Picot", shows the destruction of a border position between Syria and Iraq by the group now known as the Islamic State. The presenter, "Abu Safiyya from Chile" says it is one of many barriers that will be broken. It also shows a group of captured Iraqi soldiers. 


    by Graeme Baker via YouTube edited by Rahul Radhakrishnan 6/30/2014 9:23:29 AM
  • As a counterbalance to that last video, her's a report from AP that Iraqi troops have taken the Turaibil crossing between Iraq and Jordan.

    Footage released by Iraqi state TV on Monday claimed to show Iraqi forces back in control of a border crossing with Jordan, a week after it was seized by Sunni militants.
    The footage showed security forces on Sunday holding guns in the air and waving flags in front of a sign purporting to be the Turaibil crossing with Jordan.
    The footage also claimed to show forces on patrol as trucks drove through the crossing.
    Sunni rebels originally captured the border crossing on 22 June, as they pressed on with their offensive in one of Iraq's most restive regions. 
    Officials said the rebels managed to capture the crossing after government forces there pulled out.

    I've not seen the video myself but will track it down.



  • Iraq says declaration is a threat to all nations

    Islamic State's 
    declaration of a caliphate is a message that the group has become a threat to all countries, the Iraqi army has said.

    "This declaration is a message by Islamic State not only to Iraq or Syria but to the region and the world. The message is that Islamic State has become a threat to all countries," said army spokesman Qassim Atta.

    "I believe all the countries, once they read the declaration 
    will change their attitudes because it orders everybody to be loyal to it," he said.

    [Reuters]

    The declaration has stated that: "The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organisations becomes null by the expansion of the caliph's authority and the arrival of its troops to their areas. Listen to your caliph and obey him. Support your state, which grows every day.''
  • Something from our Iraq desk:

    In a news conference broadcast on Iraqiya TV, Brigadier General Saad Maan, another spokesman for the Iraqi armed forces, denied reports that the government was planning to build a security fence around Baghdad to prevent the anti-government fighters from entering the Iraqi capital.

    Make of that what you will...
  • Shafik Mandhai, a web producer at Al Jazeera and graduate in Islamic studies, has provided me with a bit of analysis and background on what kind of caliphate the Islamic State group thinks it is creating, and whether it will be accepted: 

    The caliphate is an emotive issue for many Sunni Muslims. Abolished with the Ottoman Empire in 1924, its return has been a key aim for armed groups like al-Qaeda and ISIL.

    But it’s not the Ottomans the Islamic State wants back. Fighters under the command of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, or "Caliph Ibrahim", want to re-establish the Rashidun caliphate, which succeeded the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century.

    The caliph served a dual role as religious and political head of the Islamic nation, or "Ummah", a position that does not currently exist except for those who have heeded Baghdadi’s call for "Bayah" or allegiance from all Muslims.

    The Rashidun caliphate, unlike all those that followed it, had near-universal allegiance from the Muslim community, something the Islamic State cannot claim to enjoy. However, its supporters can still find parallels.

    Supporters of Baghdadi will point to his organisation’s fierce literal interpretation of Islam, which they say accurately reflects the rule of the early caliphs. 

    Baghdadi, they say, also meets the theological requirements for leading the Ummah, including descent from the Prophet's Quraish tribe.

    It’s likely the Islamic State and its supporters will also find precedent in the historical conquests of the Rashidun caliphate - rapid military conquests against a better equipped enemy.

    The rapid spread of Islam in the 7th century is something the Islamic State clearly intends to emulate, and their fighters will no doubt have been buoyed by their recent gains in Iraq.

    Where the Islamic State’s bid to establish a caliphate begins to falter is acceptance from other Muslims. 

    Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's leader  

    It has even earned the rebuke of al-Qaeda's core leadership, including Ayman al-Zawahiri, over its brutality against prisoners and its repressive implementation and interpretation of Islamic teachings.

    The Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s primary affiliate in Syria, has been battling the Islamic State since an unsuccessful attempt by Baghdadi to forcibly merge the groups in 2012.

    Whether Baghdadi’s caliphate will gain legitimacy among others who wish to establish it will depend on whether al-Qaeda’s affiliates in North Africa, Somalia and Yemen break ranks with its central
    command.

    There also remains the important matter of withstanding offensives by the Syrian and Iraqi regimes, rival Syrian rebels, and possible Western intervention.



  • The Islamic State announcement named Baghdadi Ibrahim ibn Awwad ibn Ibrahim ibn Ali ibn Muhammad al-Badri al-Hashimi al-Husayni al-Quraishi.

    That's roughly translated as: Ibrahim, the son of Awwad, the son of Ibrahim, the son of Ali, the son of Muhammad, of the family of Badr, of the family of Hashim, of the family of Husayn (the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad), of the tribe of Quraish [the Prophet's tribe].




  • Jaysh al-Islam, a member of the Islamic Front organisation of Syrian rebels which is opposed to the Islamic State, said its declaration was nothing more than "psychological warfare".

    "The gangs of al-Baghdadi are living in a fantasy world. They're 
    delusional. They want to establish a state but they don't have the elements for it,'' Abdel-Rahman al-Shami, a spokesman, told the AP news agency. "You cannot establish a state through looting, sabotage and bombing."
  • Here's our latest video report on the situation on Iraq.



    And to draw my time on the blog to a close, let's summarise the latest developments in Iraq:

    * The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has rebranded as the Islamic State, and declared the restoration of the Islamic caliphate, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the caliph, or "Caliph Ibrahim".

    * Iraq's army says the declaration is a threat to all nations.

    * The Islamic State says that all leaders of Islamic and Arab states are not illegitimate and all Muslims must rally to its caliph.

    * Iraq's army says it has retaken Turaibil, a border post with Jordan.

    * There has been no word from al-Qaeda about the caliphate statement.

  • I'm taking over from my colleague, Graeme, and will be providing the latest updates on Iraq. If you'd like to share something with me for this blog, I'm available on Twitter: @RahulRadhakris
  • To start off, the Associated Press reported that there was a mixed reaction to ISIL's declaration about the Islamic State from analysts.

    Iraqi analyst Ihsan al-Shamari suggested that the declaration would not make much difference to Muslims in Iraq or elsewhere, and that the caliphate would not receive worldwide support.

    But another analyst, Dr. Najim al-Qasab, stressed the difference the declaration would make to those within ISIL itself, saying that it would enable the different elements of the group to "become unified and fight shoulder to shoulder with one doctrine for world domination."
  • We're getting reports that security has been tightened around the Baghdad.

    More soon...
  • Also, we're live on air right now, and leading with Iraq. You can watch the  online livestream here.
  • From Baghdad, our Imran Khan says that the declaration of the caliphate will have an impact on the fighting of the ground. 

    The fighters in Iraq will either have to pledge allegiance to the so-called Islamic State or try and go it alone. This will become clearer over the next few days. 

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