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World/National News

June 12, 2014

Islamic gunmen push into Iraq's heartland

(Continued)

“We are working to solve the situation,” al-Maliki said. “We are regrouping the armed forces that are in charge of clearing Ninevah from those terrorists.”

Al-Maliki has pressed parliament to declare a state of emergency over the Mosul attack — a decision expected later this week.

Iranian airlines cancelled all flights between Tehran and Baghdad due to security concerns, and the Islamic Republic has intensified security measures along its borders, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported.

Shiite powerhouse Iran has strong ties with Iraq’s government. Some 17,000 Iranian pilgrims are in Iraq at any given time, the agency quoted Saeed Ohadi, the director of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, as saying.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest warned that the instability was rapidly becoming a humanitarian issue requiring a coordinated response by Iraq’s leaders to halt ISIL’s advance and wrest territory away from insurgents.

“We condemn ISIL’s despicable attack on the Turkish consulate in Mosul, and we call for the immediate release of Turkey’s kidnapped diplomatic and security personnel, Earnest said.

Earnest told reporters traveling with President Barack Obama that ISIL poses a “different kind of threat” to American interests than core al-Qaida, which had repeatedly and publicly vowed to attack U.S. soil. Still, he said the U.S. was watching the threat from ISIL “very carefully” because the group has proven itself to be violent and willing to consider attacking U.S. interests and American allies.

Zaineb al-Assam, a Middle East analyst at IHS Country Risk, said ISIL’s success in holding onto Mosul would significantly weaken Baghdad’s control over Sunni-dominated provinces.

“The objective would be to keep Iraqi security forces off balance, tying them down on passive security duties, as well as to erode (the government’s) presence and its ability to sustain services,” al-Assam said.

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