In what some are calling a sign of potential civil war, thousands of young Iraqis heeded the call of a top Shiite cleric to help fight an offensive by a militant Sunni group.
As we’ve been reporting, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or the Levant, an al-Qaida offshoot also known as ISIS, has been making stunning progress in Iraq. Last week, it claimed a large part of Mosul.
The Wall Street Journal reports that after the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani called for his followers to pick up arms, thousands of Iraqis emerged on the streets of Baghdad carrying guns.
The Journal adds:
“TV images showed young men lining up behind pickup trucks and outside of military bases.
“Ayatollah Sistani’s call followed a chorus of statements from prominent Shiite clerics in Qom and Najaf this week seeking unity among Shiites to join the government’s armed struggle against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS.
“The developments underscore the inability of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government to muster sufficient military force to blunt the rebel force. Four days after the insurgents captured Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, with little military resistance, the weakness of Iraq’s forces was again evident on Friday during battles raging for control of the corridors leading to the capital Baghdad.”
The AP reports that the call and the action that followed were a reminder of just how divided the country was along sectarian lines. It was also a reminder of how the country could be tipped toward civil war.
Update at 12:17 p.m. ET. Aircraft Carrier To Arabian Gulf:
As we reported Friday, President Obama ruled out sending combat troops back to Iraq. He did say was considering other options that “could help support Iraq’s security forces.”
Today, the Pentagon announced it was moving the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush from the North Arabian Sea into the Persian Gulf.
“The order will provide the Commander-in-Chief additional flexibility should military options be required to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement. “The Bush will be accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun.”
Update at 10 a.m. ET. Further Headlines:
Here are some other stories making headlines on the subject:
— “Iran sends troops into Iraq to aid fight against Isis militants” (The Guardian)
— “People have talked about Iraq breaking up for years. Now it may actually happen.” (The Washington Post)
— “U.N. Warns of Rights Abuses and Hundreds Dead in Iraq Fighting” (The New York Times)