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Kerry in Baghdad as ISIL gains more ground
June 23, 2014, 8:05 am

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad early Monday after a brief visit to Cairo where he discussed the current crisis in Iraq and its potential spillover into neighbouring countries.

Iraq edged closer to civil war in the past two weeks when a coalition of anti-government groups spearheaded by the former Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), seized control of the country’s second largest city Mosul and pushed further south to seize Tikrit and other strategic towns.

The group has stated its aim is to topple the government in Baghdad.

In the past two days, the predominantly Sunni group has beaten back the Iraqi military and seized Tal Afar in the northern Nineveh province, as well as Qaim on the Syrian border and towns along the Jordanian border.

ISIL and the Iraqi military have also been engaged in fierce fighting over control of Iraq’s largest oil refinery in the town of Baiji

Fears were raised in recent weeks that the large mobilization of young Shia men answering the call to Jihad issued by influential clericsm coupled with the sectarian agenda of ISIL could spark a full-fledged civil war, which Iraq narrowly avoided during sectarian fighting in 2006-2007.

The White House, which has supported embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, appears to be pressuring his government to ensure that it does not politically and economically disenfranchise the Sunnis.

Although he has dispatched a few hundred military experts and soldiers to advise the Iraqi military in Baghdad, US President Barack Obama made it clear that the US wanted to see concrete steps toward inclusive politics from Maliki before it could commit more resources.

Obama has warned that ISIL’s growing strength could threaten US ally Jordan.

In Cairo on Sunday, Kerry called on Iraqi politicians “to rise above sectarian motivations and form a government that is united in its determination to meet the needs and speak to the demands of all of their people”.

In what is being seen as criticism of Maliki’s policies, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani – the highest Shia authority in Iraq who issued a call to Jihad last week – has called on the prime minister to form a new government that works toward “broad national acceptance” and to “remedy past mistakes”.

Source: Agencies

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