ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, a.k.a. ISIL) is a fairly new and rapidly growing Sunni jihadist group. Their goal is to establish a new Islamic Caliphate. It claims to have fighters recruited from all over the world. Their leader, 43-year old Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is a battlefield commander and tactician. Young jihadis appear to find Baghdadi a more exciting leader than the Islamic theologian Ayman al-Zawahiri who leads al-Qaeda.
ISIS in its short existence since 2013 has already built a reputation for brutality. The group controls many areas in Syria. Torture and summary executions are commonplace. Amnesty International reports that children as young as eight are abducted and imprisoned under cruel and inhumane conditions.
ISIS operates independently from other jihadist groups. Baghdadi refused Zawahiri’s request to have ISIS focus on Iraq and leave Syria to al-Nusra. It is now believed that as much as 80% of Western fighters in the Syrian opposition belong to ISIS.
Tikrit, the most recent Iraqi city to have fallen to the militants, is about 100 miles from Baghdad. Today the U.S. Government pledged “any appropriate assistance” to the Iraqi government against Islamist militants.
The State Department has had no confirmation of news reports that militants were heading for Baghdad, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a news briefing. “It is a very fluid situation on the ground,” she added. “We are of course very concerned about the deteriorating situation.”
According to The international Organization for Migration, half a million people have fled Mosul fearing further violence.
Iraqi PM Malaki brilliantly noted the country is “undergoing a difficult stage”. He is calling for martial law. He urged the public and government to unite “to confront this vicious attack, which will spare no Iraqi.” Security forces are fleeing. The militants are pillaging army bases and banks.
Operation New Dawn ends. A long malevolent night begins.