Reuters reports: According to a high-level Iraqi security official, who specializes in Sunni militant groups, ISIL has about 2,300 fighters, including foreigners, who have led the speedy assault from Mosul through other northern towns, including Hawija, west of oil-rich Kirkuk; Baiji, home of Iraq’s biggest refinery; and Saddam Hussein’s birthplace Tikrit.
The high-level official told Reuters that as ISIL has raced on from Mosul, the north’s biggest city which they dominate, other Iraqi Sunni groups have seized much of the newly-gained rural territory because ISIL is short on manpower.
The different groups appear to be following ISIL’s lead in the bigger communities it has captured like Tikrit and Baiji.
But as the new order settles in Iraq’s Sunni north, the high-level security officer predicted: “They will soon be fighting each other.”
Mustafa Alani, an Iraqi security expert with good contacts in Gulf Arab governments, also expects friction to grow.
“How long can this honeymoon last?” he said. “ISIL is not acceptable among the people, either socially or politically.”
If the rebel alliance does fracture, battles could drag Sunni regions of Iraq into a state of permanent internecine war. [Continue reading…]