The New York Times reports: Just last month, when Western and Iraqi officials talked about the Islamic State, it was mostly to list a series of setbacks to the terrorist group: defeated in the Syrian town of Kobani, battered by a heavy airstrike campaign, forced out of a growing list of towns and cities in Iraq.
But in just the past week, the Islamic State has turned that story around. Last weekend it solidified its hold on Iraq’s Anbar Province with a carefully choreographed assault on the regional capital, Ramadi. And on Wednesday, it stretched its territory in Syria into the historically and strategically important city of Palmyra.
Confounding declarations of the group’s decline, the twin offensives have become a sudden showcase for the group’s disciplined adherence to its core philosophies: always fighting on multiple fronts, wielding atrocities to scare off resistance and, especially, enforcing its caliphate in the Sunni heartland that straddles the Iraqi-Syrian border. In doing so, the Islamic State has not only survived setbacks, but also engineered new victories.
“Nobody here from the president on down is saying that this is something that we’ll just overcome immediately,” a senior State Department official said in a briefing with reporters on Wednesday, in which the ground rules demanded anonymity. “It’s an extremely serious situation.” [Continue reading…]
BBC News: More than 40,000 people were displaced from the key Iraqi town of Ramadi earlier this week, when it was captured by Islamic State fighters.
As the fighters attacked, the Iraqi army left the town instead of defending it and its people.
Now, as militants appear to be moving east from the city, pushing more displaced residents before them, Iraqis are asking why their army could not defend their town.
BBC News also reports: Islamic State militants have seized the last Syrian government-controlled border crossing between Syria and Iraq, a Syria monitoring group says.
Government forces withdrew from al-Tanf – known as al-Waleed in Iraq – crossing as IS advanced, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.