The New York Times reports: The Sunni militant extremists who have seized a broad area of Iraq extended their control on Monday to the country’s entire western frontier, having secured nearly all official border crossings with Syria and the only one with Jordan, giving them the semblance of the new independent state that they say they intend to create in the region.
With the seizure of the Jordan crossing, which militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria first assaulted late Sunday night, the Iraqi military defenses crumpled, as they have in other battlegrounds in the western and northern parts of the country over the past two weeks. ISIS control of the Jordan border raised the risks that its insurgency could menace not just Syria and Iraq, but Jordan and Saudi Arabia, two important American allies.
The border seizure came as Secretary of State John Kerry made an emergency visit to Baghdad for consultations with Iraqi leaders on the need to bridge the country’s deepening sectarian splits and form a new unity government that can halt the ISIS insurgency. That is an enormous challenge, given the polarizing effects of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a Shiite whose autocratic tendencies have increasingly been a worry for American officials. [Continue reading…]
BBC News reports: Sunni rebels in Iraq say they have fully captured the country’s main oil refinery at Baiji, north of Baghdad.
The refinery had been under siege for 10 days with the militant offensive being repulsed several times.
The complex supplies a third of Iraq’s refined fuel and the battle has already led to petrol rationing.