Iraq govt blamed for rebel advance

ROME: Prince Turki Al-Faisal, a former intelligence chief, has blamed the Iraqi government of Nuri Al-Maliki for the loss of wide areas of northern Iraq to militants, saying Baghdad had failed to stop them joining forces with former Baathists from the Saddam Hussein era. He said the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) insurgency should have come as no surprise.

“The situation in the Anbar area of Iraq has been brewing and boiling for some time and the Iraqi government seemed to be not only inactive in putting down the boiling temperature there but also in some cases seem to have been encouraging events there to spill over,” he told a meeting of the European Council on Foreign Relations in Rome.

He said ISIL did not appear to have enough strength on its own to make the inroads it had, with media reports suggesting it had no more than 1,500-3,000 fighters. “The conclusion I come to is that those numbers were simply added to, not only by the tribal configurations in that area but also by former Baathists and other groups that have been operating in that part of Iraq not from yesterday but from the time of the American occupation of Iraq (in 2003).”

The prince also said Saudi Arabia firmly opposed ISIL, noting that it was on the Saudi list of terrorist organizations.

US President Barack Obama said Iraq’s government must make a sincere effort to address sectarian differences, or else US military help won’t succeed in curbing the insurgency there. He said: “We can’t do it for them.”

Obama says the US won’t send troops back into Iraq. But he says he’s asked his national security team to prepare a range of other options. He says he’ll review those options in the coming days.

Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric urged followers to take up arms against the rising tide of militants.

In a rare intervention at Friday prayers in Karbala, a message from Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, who is the highest religious authority for Shiites in Iraq, said people should unite to fight back against a lightning advance by militants.

“People who are capable of carrying arms and fighting the terrorists in defense of their country … should volunteer to join the security forces to achieve this sacred goal,” he said.





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