Can ISIS Be Stopped?

Militants have taken four towns in two days
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2014 7:49 AM CDT
Can ISIS Be Stopped?
Volunteers of the newly formed "Peace Brigades" raise their weapons and chant slogans against ISIS during a parade in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, June 21, 2014.   (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)

Officials in Baghdad are increasingly worried that the Iraqi Army is simply incapable of standing up to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which is both better armed and better trained, diplomats and politicians tell the BBC. And the militants provided plenty of evidence for that as their campaign rolled on today, capturing their fourth town in two days. Rutba in Anbar Province lies on a key road between Baghdad and Jordan. Yesterday, they took two other towns along the Euphrates river. In other developments:

  • Yesterday also saw the rebels seize a border crossing into Syria, the Wall Street Journal reports, giving them a potentially strategically crucial pipeline between their two staging grounds. But the corresponding checkpoint on the other side of the border is under the control of the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, which is fighting ISIS for control of it—unlike the Iraqi Army, which simply fled its checkpoint.
  • Iraq's government fired off an airstrike in Tikrit that it said killed 40 militants. But witnesses say many civilians were killed as the strike hit a gas station.
  • Shiite volunteers are coming out of the woodwork in Baghdad, thanks to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's call to arms, the New York Times reports. Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army put on a particularly strong paramilitary display in Sadr City yesterday. "ISIS is not as strong as a finger against us," one Mahdi fighter said. "If Muqtada gives us the order, we will finish ISIS in two days."
  • But ISIS is gaining wealth and weapons with every target it takes. Even before it took over Mosul outright its extortion rackets there were generating $8 million a month, and now those rackets have transformed into "taxes." "We don't know the exact amount of money they stole from Mosul," one member of Iraq's parliament says. "But it is big, big enough that ISIS can use it to occupy other countries too."
  • The militants are also pulling in donations from places like Saudi Arabia, thanks in part to their social media savvy. When they captured five American-made helicopters recently, for example, they cheekily tweeted, "We’ll expect the Americans to honor the warranty and service them for us."
(Read more Islamic State of Iraq and Syria stories.)

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