Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighters have taken another step toward making their name a reality with the weekend seizure of two key border crossings in western Iraq. Though the news that they took four key towns (Qaim, Rutba, Rawa, and Anah) in two days was reported yesterday, the implication of such seizures is new: The loss of a border post on the road to Jordan (Rutba) and another on the way to Syria (Qaim) means Iraq's government has completely lost control of its western borders, reports the BBC. Both crossings were in Anbar province, which is now believed to be 90% controlled by militants. In other developments:
- John Kerry arrived in Baghdad today for talks with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as well as Sunni and Shiite leaders, reports CNN. A State Department official says Kerry will talk to leaders about forming a new, inclusive, government "in line with the constitutional timeline that they're on."
- As Iraq's military stages what it calls a "tactical retreat" from more towns and border crossings, Western officials are starting to consider the country's military highly ineffective and possibly even a "defeated force," the New York Times reports. Analysts say the military's morale is low, its leadership is corrupt, and the situation is now so desperate that it now has to rely on thousands of untrained volunteers.
- Talk of the US and Iran finding a common cause in Iraq is starting to look overstated, the Washington Post reports. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei slammed US interference in Iraq yesterday and made it clear he did not support replacing Maliki. "The United States is dissatisfied with the result of elections in Iraq, and they want to deprive the Iraqi people of their achievement of a democratic system, which they achieved without US interference," he said.
- In the city of Hillah, south of Baghdad, around 70 prisoners were killed when a convoy came under attack, police sources tell the BBC. The men, who were accused of terrorism, were caught in the crossfire when police battled gunmen.
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