McClatchy reports: The long-predicted dissolution of a centrally controlled Iraq ruled from Baghdad appeared closer to reality on Thursday as radical Islamist fighters advanced through the country with little interference from what remained of Iraq’s disintegrating security forces.
Only militias tied to Iraq’s feuding religious and ethnic groups mounted serious resistance to the southward push by fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, who now appear to be supported by an ad hoc coalition of Sunni Muslim tribes and militant groups opposed to the Shiite-dominated central government. With the lone exception of a helicopter assault on an insurgent position north of the central city of Tikrit, Iraqi army and security forces continued to abandon their posts whenever confronted by ISIS.
The collapse of central authority also was evident in Baghdad, where the Iraqi Parliament failed to muster a quorum to consider a request from Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki for a declaration of a state of emergency. Maliki responded in a statement read on state television by accusing Sunni political parties of conspiring to destroy the state. In recent days, Maliki, who also serves as the defense minister, has blamed the same parties for the army’s massive desertion in the face of the ISIS offensive.
“Iraq’s future at this point is being shaped by conflict rather than by a viable political system. No one really knows where it’s going,” Salman Sheikh, the director of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, said in a telephone interview from Beirut. “The long-term impact could be quite cataclysmic, not just for Iraq, but for the entire region.”
The prediction that Iraq would one day descend into an ungovernable space of feuding ethnic and religious groups was first made when U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. Now that it seemed to be happening, many found it difficult to grasp the unfolding reality.
In Washington, President Barack Obama told reporters that the United States was considering all options to aid the Maliki government, Defense Department officials said there was no speedup in the previously set schedule for the delivery of military equipment, and Congress seemed slow to grasp that the ship had likely sailed on hopes that Maliki could somehow save the situation. [Continue reading…]