WASHINGTON — Iraq-based Sunni Muslim and al-Qaeda-affiliated militants overran the city of Tikrit and have already taken Mosul. Tikrit was the hometown of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Reuters reported that the seizure of Tikrit, close a major oil refinery, worries security analysts and oil companies alike.
The al-Qaeda-affiliated group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, has dealt a major blow for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s attempt to stop them from taking over large swarths of the country. The group is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. The group is responsible for the deaths of thousands over the past year by using multiple, coordinated car bombings throughout the country.
Reports say up to 500,000 Iraqis fled the city of Mosul when the al-Qaeda militants took the city, hiding in the confines of the autonomous region of Kurdistan. And, apparently, the militants now control between 10-15% of the country. Adding insult to injury, the militants used combat vehicles and took the Iraqi security forces by surprise.
The Kurds, who have fought with the central government in Baghdad over oil rights and revenues, have vowed to defend their native Kurdistan to the last drop of blood. Their military forces, known as the Peshmarga, are linking up with Iraqi security forces to fight and beat back the Islamist militants.
Critics of the Obama administration have said that Obama’s unilateral and quick withdrawal from Iraq destabilized the region and abandoned the U.S.’s new ally, who has been struggling with the Islamist militants since the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein. Now, those claims seem well-founded and sadly, true as car bombings have escalated to a full-scale war between the government and al-Qaeda militants.