Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Iraq Updates June 17 , 2014 --- Kurds survey their options regarding the oil market , the ongoing Sunni vs Shi'a and discuss the state of play with Regional Player Iran......... US to send troops to Iraq to secure embassy Obama's announcement follows deployment of warships to the Gulf in response to advances by the armed group ISIL - note Qater ( Saudis previously ) and Israel warn about US intervention in Iraq and working with Iran ....... Al Jazeera and Debka explore US actions and option in Iraq , great article from chris Martenson providing and overview on the Iraq situation ... tweets of the day - note both islamic insurgents and Shi'a militias / Iraq Government engage in atrocities !


Does Iraq Turmoil Augur Kurdish Oil Takeoff?

By Harvey Morris 6 hours ago
An oilfield in the Kurdistan Region. Photo: Rudaw
An oilfield in the Kurdistan Region. Photo: Rudaw
LONDON – Do the troubles in the rest of Iraq augur a takeoff of oil exports by the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)? Some commentators suggest that could be.
The prestigious Forbes business magazine wrote on its website on Monday: 
“With Kurdish independence appearing to grow closer every day, perhaps this will be the week when the world’s oil buyers put aside any concern of being blacklisted by Baghdad, and step up to buy them.”
Forbes’ Christopher Helman added: “When it happens it will open the floodgates for Kurdish exports, and initiate a flood of cash to the Kurdish Regional Government, which is now moving inexorably closer to becoming an independent state, and a major world oil power.”
In less than a week since Abdul Kareem Luaibi, Iraq’s oil minister, insisted the country would raise production to 4 million barrels by the end of the year, jihadist fighters have extended their control over much of the Sunni heartland, and are advancing on Baghdad.
Nervous traders pushed the international oil price higher on Monday, on fears that the spiralling conflict in Iraq could disrupt shipments from the region’s second-largest exporter. 
After prices rose more than 4 per cent last week, Brent crude, the international benchmark, gained a further 63 cents to reach $113.09 a barrel in early London trading.
The price hike, which has shaken a previously steady market, has focused attention on what role exports from Kurdistan will play as the crisis unfolds.
Some commentators suggested one consequence might be to overcome the reluctance of buyers to purchase oil exported via the KRG’s new pipeline to Ceyhan in Turkey.
Baghdad, which had threatened international action against anyone buying Kurdish oil – and filed suits against Turkey for allowing two tankers to pick up shipments at Ceyhan over the past month, has been too busy with bigger problems than to worry about Kurdish oil.
A Kurdish source told Rudaw at the at the weekend that the first Kurdish oil had found buyers in Austria and India. He gave no other details.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces are in full control of the major oil city of Kirkuk, preventing any incursion by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). However, previous attacks by insurgents had already shut down the 600,000 barrel a day pipeline from Kirkuk to Ceyhan in early March. The latest fighting could disrupt repair work.
As crude prices started to rise last week, the shares of oil explorers with major stakes in the KRG began to tumble amid fears that the violence could spread to their operations in Kurdistan. Shares in companies such as Genel and Gulf Keystone were down by as much as 15 per cent after ISIS’s takeover of Mosul. 
By the end of the week, however, shares had begun to recover as investors saw that the Peshmerga had moved to secure the north. In a share tips round-up on Friday, London-based ShareCast reported: “ISIS has shot itself in the foot with its actions in the north of Iraq. While Baghdad´s hand in the region has always been weak that is not the case with the well-organized Kurdish fighters, who are more than a match for those from that radical Islamist movement.”
It concluded that the oil industry in the Kurdish region, where some London-listed companies have their operations, was now safe. “Furthermore, the ISIS move means that Baghdad will find it increasingly hard to pressure Kurdistan politically, or otherwise,” ShareCast added.
Mr. Luaibi assured fellow ministers of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries last week that oil facilities in southern Iraq were “very, very safe”. 
The crisis is expected to loom large over a two-day Iraq petroleum conference being held in London this week. It is due to hear from Iraqi officials, investors and oil experts about prospects for the sector – assessments that will likely have to be revised in the light of the latest events.
On Wednesday, the conference will focus on oil developments in the KRG and is due to hear from Ashti Hawrami, the KRG’s minister for natural resources.


Despite Pressure, Kurds Not Rushing in To Take on Insurgents

By Nawzad Mahmoud 17 hours ago
This new reality on the ground leaves the country’s Kurds, who see both perils -- but also opportunities -- in the mayhem, with hard choices to make. Photo: AP
This new reality on the ground leaves the country’s Kurds, who see both perils -- but also opportunities -- in the mayhem, with hard choices to make. Photo: AP
So far, the Kurds of Iraq are seen as the only true winners of the mayhem that erupted in the country last week. But with the Sunni insurgency fortified in neighboring areas, how will the Kurds adjust themselves and what options do they have? 
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region - Despite the Iraqi army’s aerial raid on jihadist bases in and around Mosul, there are so far no clear signs of retreat for the array of insurgents who have seized much of Iraq’s Sunni-populated territories.
Families who fled Mosul earlier last week are slowly returning to the fallen city, which is now managed by a cocktail of “radical and moderate” rebellious Sunni factions. Some reports suggest that the insurgency is run only in part by the petrifying gunmen of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The bulk of the insurgency has been characterized as a “revolt” by the Sunni minority of a Shiite-led country. 
This new reality on the ground leaves the country’s Kurds, who see both perils -- but also opportunities -- in the mayhem, with hard choices to make. 
A clear majority of Kurds, although unmistakably not part of the bloody sectarian battle between Sunnis and Shiites, identify themselves as Sunnis. But since the fall of the former regime in 2003, Kurds have effectively been in government coalitions with the country’s Shiites, who would unlikely be able to govern Iraq without the direct blessing of the powerful Kurdish factions in the north.
With the Sunnis strengthening their roots in the bordering areas through insurgency, Kurdish political parties have followed the events with a watchful eye, leaving all options open. 
“If the Sunni insurgents become a reality in these areas, we have to come to terms with them, or at least, we should then see them as a new force,” says Arif Taifour, a senior member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the largest Kurdish party.
But the general mood among Kurds is still very hostile towards ISIS militants.
“This is a terrorist organization. Kurds have historically been victims of terrorism, this is why we see ISIS as a terrorist group and should fight against them,” says Saadi Pira, a senior member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), another major Kurdish party.
There have been no major clashes so far between the insurgents and Kurdish forces. ISIS’s main goal has been to push the Iraqi army as far back into the Shiite regions as possible. Sunni insurgents have publically not been critical of the Peshmarga’s march on the disputed territories -- at least for now. 
“It would be a mistake to fight the ISIS at this stage,” says Taifour, who is also Iraq’s deputy parliament speaker. “We should defend our own Kurdish territories outside the Kurdistan Region and not become part of the religious fight in Iraq,” he cautions.
But he believes that “sooner or later” the jihadists will turn their guns against the Kurds. “We should not give them the benefit of the doubt.”
“The insurgents take different shapes, but share the same values. They do not negotiate, but spread terror among defenseless people.” 
Taifour says that ISIS would “harm” the Kurdish cause, if given the chance. “Kurds should move carefully not to give them the reason to destabilize our region.”
“It is not just about the ISIS. Every other Sunni group, including the former Baathists, are with the insurgents as well,” Taifour explains.
The Kurdish Islamic parties have similar views. They prefer a “wait and see” policy to an open war against the militants.
“The ISIS and other Sunni factions will either be pushed out of Mosul by the Iraqi army, or stay there and make sure Iraq is divided into three states,” says a senior member of the Islamic Union of Kurdistan, Aboubakr Haladni. 
“This is why we should be prepared for every possibility, but should not take part in any wars at the moment.”
Similar views are expressed by Kurdistan’s other Islamic parties.
The stakes for neighboring countries are high as well. 
Iran has publically condemned the insurgency and declared its support for the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. Reliable Sources tellRudaw that an Iranian delegation arrived in the Kurdistan Region last week to talk the Kurds into military action against the jihadists.
On Monday, Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani was discussing the turmoil in Iraq with Iran’s top military officials, according to Iranian media reports.
Sources tell Rudaw that Maliki has also urged the PUK for assistance in an onslaught against the militant Islamists. So far, the KDP has rejected any collaboration with Baghdad. Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani, who is also head of the KDP, has stated that he wants to rally support for a united Kurdish front.
“We have paid a heavy price in the past by supporting Maliki. Iran clearly would like us to engage in war against the insurgents,” KDP’s Taifour said. “But we do not see it as strategically sound for our cause.” 


Kurdish Premier and Iran Discuss Iraq as Rebels Advance on Baghdad

By RUDAW 22 hours ago
Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani (L) with Ali Shamkhani, head of Iran's National Security Council. Photo: FARS
Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani (L) with Ali Shamkhani, head of Iran's National Security Council. Photo: FARS
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdistan Region Premier Nechirvan Barzani is in Tehran to discuss events in Iraq, where the jihadi Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has seized large Sunni territories and is marching toward Baghdad to topple the Shiite-led government.
Iran’s Mehr news agency reported that the Kurdish leader will discuss the ISIS “terrorist group” with Iranian officials. It noted he would also meet with Iranian defense authorities, including top military chief Ali Shamkhani, who heads the Supreme National Security Council.
Barzani’s unannounced visit takes place as the Iranian government considers supporting Baghdad against Islamic extremists who have taken the second-largest city of Mosul and remain only about 100 kilometers north of Baghdad.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has denied reports that some of Tehran’s  elite Quds forces are in Iraq to help bolster Iraqi Prime Miniser Nouri al- Maliki, a fellow Shiite. But he said, "If the Iraqi government wants us to help, we will consider it." 

Meanwhile, the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga military is seen as the only force inside Iraq capable of stopping the rebels, who say their aim in Baghdad is to topple the pro-Iranian Maliki.
Reports say that even the United States, which backs Maliki but has no relations with arch-enemy Iran, wants to meet with Tehran officials to discuss – and possibly coordinate – efforts to thwart the militant march.
The Iraqi army has all but collapsed since abandoning posts and fleeing when the extremists marched on Mosul last week.  
Iran holds immense sway among all groups in Iraq, where it is generally believed able to impose its will.
Iraq’s pro-Iranian Shiite authorities have issued a religious call for all Shiites to take up arms against the Sunni extremists.
But the Kurds have said that the only way out of the current crisis is for all of Iraq’s major components – Shiite Arabs, Sunnis and Kurds – to form a council, and continue their political process through parliament.

Zero Hedge covers overnight events..... and US boots on the ground ! 

The Latest News Out Of Iraq - Full Overnight Update

Tyler Durden's picture

Events in Iraq are changing by the hour, now that US combat boots are "on the ground", expect them to change even faster. For those looking to catch up on the most recent overnight news out of this latest civil war torn country, here is the full update.
  • Iraq's biggest oil refinery shut down, foreign staff evacuated (Reuters)
  • Obama Sends Troops to Assist Iraq Embassy, Weighs Strikes (BBG)
  • Kurds Grab Fourth-Largest Iraq Oilfield Amid ISIL Advance (BBG)
  • Iraqi troops and Sunni rebels battle for control of Tal Afar (FT)
  • Brent Drops as Iraqi Forces Slow Insurgent Advance (BBG)
  • U.S., Iran Discuss Crisis in Iraq (WSJ)
  • ISIS gunmen attacked a prison in the city of Baquba, 34 miles north of Baghdad, killing 43 inmates; Iraq military says it repelled the attack (BBG)
  • Obama Courting Iran for Help in Iraq Risks Backlash (BBG)
  • Kidnapped Chinese CNPC Employee Rescued in Iraq (Caixin)
  • In diplomatic breakthrough, Britain says to re-open Iran embassy (Reuters)
  • Iraq produced 3.125mln bbl/d of crude oil in the period from January to May, exported 2.5mln bbl/d in the period January to May while Kirkuk crude output has been 300K bbl/d since March according to the Iraq Govt. (BBG)
  • India’s Iranian oil imports have risen 13.5% in May vs. April, above 2mln bbl, yet are down 0.6% in May vs. year ago. (Business Today)
  • BP’s CEO Bob Dudley has said their operations in Iraq are so far unaffected by violence, with non-essential production people having left but operations continue. (RTRS)
And of course...

Fog of War ....


US to send troops to Iraq to secure embassy

Obama's announcement follows deployment of warships to the Gulf in response to advances by the armed group ISIL.

Last updated: 17 Jun 2014 06:50
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US President Barack Obama has announced that up to 275 military personnel will be deployed to Iraq after fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized control of the country's north.
The troops will provide support and security for US personnel and the country's embassy in the capital, Baghdad.
"This force is deploying for the purpose of protecting US citizens and property, if necessary, and is equipped for combat," Obama said in a letter to US legislators.
"This force will remain in Iraq until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed."
Obama said he was notifying Congress under the War Powers Resolution.
The US was also considering drone strikes in Iraq and has sent more ships to the Gulf, as Sunni fighters threatened to march on Baghdad.

John Kerry, US secretary of state, said on Monday that drone strikes were "not the whole answer" to the ISIL's campaign but added they they could be "one of the options that are important".
"When you have people murdering, assassinating in these mass massacres, you have to stop that. And you do what you need to do if you need to try to stop it from the air or otherwise."
The UN meanwhile, has said it was pulling staff from Baghdad, with at least 58 already moved to Jordan. The organisation planned to relocate others to Erbil, which is the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.
James Bays, Al Jazeera's diplomatic correspondent, said the announcement came only a few days after the UN said it did not believe that Baghdad was at risk of attack by the ISIL.
Carrier strike group
Chuck Hagel, US defence secretary, has also ordered the amphibious transport ship USS Mesa Verde to the Gulf.
The Mesa Verde can carry up to 800 soldiers, their equipment and aircraft such as the Osprey helicopter/plane hybrid and Sea Knight helicopters.
John Kirby, the Pentagon's spokesman, said the Mesa Verde had already joined up with the carrier strike group led by the aircraft carrier, the USS George HW Bush.
AP news agency, citing three anonymous US officials, reported that the White House was considering sending a small number of US special forces into Iraq to slow down the rebel advance.
US prepares for possible Iraq air strikes
Al Jazeera's Bays said the Iraq crisis was expected to be discussed with Iran on the sidelines of the nuclear talks in Vienna on Monday.
"The Iranian foreign minister will be there, as well as the US deputy secretary of state," he said.
"Iran and the US are deeply concerned about Iraq."
However, the US defence department said that there were no plans for military coordination with Iran in Iraq.
On Monday, ISIL fighters captured Tal Afar, a strategic city along the highway to Syria, moving closer to their goal of linking areas under their control on both sides of the border.
A resident in Tal Afar, said that the rebels in pick-up vans mounted with machine guns and flying black ISIL banners were on the streets, as gunfire rang out.
AP news agency reported that an army helicopter was shot down during clashes with fighters over Saqlawiya village in Anbar province, according to officials.
Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from the northern town of Khazer, said Tal Afar represented one of the last strongholds for the Baghdad government.
The city falls a week after rebels captured Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, and Tikrit.


Iraq Breaks Down, Oil Surges - The Context Underlying The Growing Crisis

Tyler Durden's picture

The situation in Iraq is serious, and is probably going to get worse before it gets better. The potential for this recent action to morph into a regional conflict is very high. That that means that oil could go a lot higher, and if it does, we can expect the odds of a global economic recession and an attendant financial crisis to go up considerably from here.
Before we dive into what's actually happening over there right now, I need to begin with a longer and deeper historical context of the region, which is essential to understanding pretty much everything in the Middle East. The western press likes to report on things as if they suddenly occur for no discernible reason, context-free and unconnected to our actions and activities over there. But the story of the Middle East is a story of intense external meddling -- especially by the US, recently. 
Further, I happen to hold the view that when an entire population resorts to violence, it's a sign that they feel they have no other options or opportunities.  Whether it's a financially-strapped fired US employee lashing out at their former bosses and co-workers, or an Arab youth raised in utter poverty deciding that military extremism makes sense, I see the same dynamic at play.
People, like animals, when cornered will take whatever path remains for them to escape. If left with no other paths besides violence, then violence is what you get.  It's not really all that hard to understand, and yet the US media goes out of its way to try and frame violent unrest as some form of inexplicable evil that magically appears for no good reason.
Well, there are plenty of reasons why violence exists in the Middle East is violent (and has for a very long time). And most of those have to do with resources, and their exceptionally scarcity in a desert environment.  
Of course, the Middle East isn't unique in this. For instance, the early European Viking raids and endless wars between the European kings during the middle ages were all essentially resource wars. To understand the reasons for war -- both ancient and modern --  you need to start with resources.  
So whenever I hear terms like 'radical militants' or 'Jihadists' or even 'terrorists', what I hear instead is 'people with poor resources who believe they have no other options.'  The unpleasant truth that threatens the dominant western narrative is that all humans, if they have access to sufficient resources and opportunities, are generally peaceful. By the time an entire population has been 'radicalized', the causal problems have been simmering for a long time and, as a result, will not be easily remedied.

Iraq Is Not Really A State

To start this story, we have to go back to the period just after WW I when Britain and France were divvying up the spoils of the region between themselves. 
Iraq did not exist prior to these two western powers taking out a map of the Middle east, a ruler and a pen, and summarily drawing straight lines that happened to rather inconsiderately cut across cultural, language and racial boundaries. The architects of this secret agreement were a Brit by the name of Sykes and a Frenchman by the name of Picot.
Prior to this Franco-British interference, the area was called Mesopotamia and had long been ruled by a contentious but roughly-balanced mixture of tribes and kings.
Here's the old Mesopotamia in green as compared to the borders drawn by Sykes & Picot:
To understand the current conflict, you have to understand the history of the borders, how they were drawn, and the extent of western plundering and meddling -- which began long before the Bush Iraq wars (I & II) began.
The old partition of the Middle East is dead. I dread to think what will follow
June 13, 2014

The entire Middle East has been haunted by the Sykes-Picot agreement, which also allowed Britain to implement Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour’s 1917 promise to give British support to the creation of a Jewish “homeland” in Palestine.

The collapsing Ottoman Empire of 1918 was to be split into two on a north-east, south-west axis which would run roughly from near Kirkuk – today under Kurdish control – across from Mosul in northern Iraq and the Syrian desert and through what is now the West Bank to Gaza.

Mosul was initially given to the French – its oil surrendered by the British in return for what would become a French buffer zone between Britain and the Russian Caucasus, Baghdad and Basra being safe in British hands below the French lines.

But growing British commercial desires for oil took over from imperial agreements. Mosul was configured into the British zone inside the new state of Iraq (previously Mesopotamia),its oil supplies safely in the hands of London.

It bears mentioning that the area the French and British allotted to themselves was already fully-populated by the people who lived there. However the area was already determined to be rich in oil and other commodities, and both colonial powers were well-practiced at the art of dividing and conquering local people in order to take their resources.
For the people of Mesopotamia, western resource plundering has only accelerated since the arbitrary lines that comprise the 'state' of Iraq were drawn. 
Of course, it's quite likely that Iraq's border were specifically drawn to cut across ethnic boundaries and thereby assure a failed state, because Britain had learned through history that failed states were the easiest to control. This was their preferred MO in India and numerous other colonies, and by 1916 it was a more or less perfected tool of statecraft.
But whether it was ineptitude or malign intent, the fact remains that Iraq was never a logical geographical entity; and its natural state would be to split into three autonomous regions: Kurds to the north, Sunnis to the west and Shiites to the south.
As a quick reminder, the differences between Sunni and Shiite Muslims stems from a split made shortly after the prophet Muhammad died in 632:
Sunni and Shia Islam are the two major denominations of Islam. The demographic breakdown between the two denominations is difficult to assess and varies by source, but a good approximation is that approximately 87-89% of the world's Muslims are Sunni and approximately 11-12% are Shia, with most Shias belonging to the Twelver tradition and the rest divided between several other groups.
Sunnis are a majority in most Muslim communities: in Southeast Asia, China, South Asia, Africa, and most of the Arab world. Shia make up the majority of the citizen population in Iran, Iraq and Bahrain, as well as being a politically significant minority in Lebanon. Azerbaijan is predominantly Shia, however practicing adherents are much lower. Pakistan has the largest Sunni and second-largest Shia Muslim (Twelver) population in the world.

Sunnis believe that Abu Bakr, the father of Muhammad's wife Aisha, was Muhammad's rightful successor and that the method of choosing or electing leaders (Shura) endorsed by the Quran is the consensus of the Ummah(the Muslim community).

Shias believe that Muhammad divinely ordained his cousin and son-in-law Ali (the father of his grandsons Hasan ibn Ali and Hussein ibn Ali) in accordance with the command of God to be the next caliph, making Ali and his direct descendants Muhammad's successors. Ali was married to Fatimah, Muhammad's daughter from his wife Khadijah bint Khuwaylid.

The reason it's important to know the differences between the two main forms of Islam involved is because the balance of power is split across the Middle East is based on which form dominates a given area.
Saudi Arabia is almost entirely Sunni and has been supporting the rebels in Syria and, by extension, in the rebels now in Iraq as well. Iran, on the other hand, is Shiite, as is most of Baghdad and southern Iraq.
The awkward part of this story is that if the US does get involved to help Baghdad out militarily, it would mean fighting on the same side as Iran (and against the forces the Saudi Arabia supports):
Iran sends troops into Iraq to aid fight against Isis militants
June 14, 2014

Iran has sent 2,000 advance troops to Iraq in the past 48 hours to help tackle a jihadist insurgency, a senior Iraqi official has told the Guardian.

The confirmation comes as the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, said Iran was ready to support Iraq from the mortal threat fast spreading through the country, while the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, called on citizens to take up arms in their country's defence.

Addressing the country on Saturday, Maliki said rebels from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) had given "an incentive to the army and to Iraqis to act bravely". His call to arms came after reports surfaced that hundreds of young men were flocking to volunteer centres across Baghdad to join the fight against Isis.

In Iran, Rouhani raised the prospect of Teheran cooperating with its old enemy Washington to defeat the Sunni insurgent group – which is attempting to ignite a sectarian war beyond Iraq's borders.

No wonder Washington is hemming and hawing!  There's no way for Obama to send support to Baghdad without undercutting a lot of carefully laid anti-Iranian propaganda.  What, we're going to be fighting on the same side now as our longtime "Death to America!" adversary?  Politically this is a real pickle.
But such an unnatural alliance may be happening:
US sends aircraft carrier to Persian Gulf as Obama considers air strikes in Iraq
June 14, 2014
The US is sending an aircraft carrier and two guided missile ships into the Persian Gulf, bolstering sea and airpower before a possible US strike on the jihadist army in Iraq in the coming days.
Defense secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the USS George HW Bush into the Gulf on Saturday, a day after President Barack Obama indicated he would soon decide on air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis),whose seizure of Sunni Iraqi cities has violently upended the region.
A bit ironic to be sending the USS George Bush, but there you have it.  Once again, the US is poised to deliver more military solutions to what are, at heart, political problems. 
As I've posted before, I think that sending your biggest ships into the the Persian Gulf bathtub is an outdated tactic that will not last long if/when modern anti-ship missiles are brought into that theater, such as the very impressive Yakhont-800 supersonic anti-ship cruise missile:
The truly awkward part for US foreign policy here is that Iran could likely come out of this with even more influence over Baghdad -- possibly even enjoying a permanent 'protector' role until or unless some other entity wants to step up to the plate and commit to the job.
Mission Accomplished?  That's going to go down as one of the most premature declarations of all time. More like Missing Accomplishment, if you ask me.

A Lightning-Fast Advance

The situation in Iraq developed fast and continues to move quickly.
Allegedly, nobody saw the rebels from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) coming. "There was no warning".
I find that doubtful given all the tools of State right now, but whether warnings were ignored or not, ISIS has moved incredibly fast seizing one city after another as they've spread southwards:
Islamist Insurgents Advance Toward Baghdad
Jun 11, 2014

Islamist militants swept out of northern Iraq Wednesday to seize their second city in two days, threatening Baghdad and pushing the country's besieged government to signal it would allow U.S. airstrikes to beat back the advance.

An alarmed Iraqi government also asked the U.S. to accelerate delivery of pledged military support, particularly Apache helicopters, F-16 fighters and surveillance equipment, to help push back fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, an al Qaeda offshoot known as ISIS. The U.S. said it has been expediting shipments of military hardware to the Iraqis all year.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said his country faces a "mortal threat" from the ISIS insurgents.

Officials declined to say whether the U.S. would consider conducting airstrikes with drones or manned aircraft. The Obama administration is considering a number of options, according to a senior U.S. official who added that no decisions have been made.

Bernadette Meehan, a White House National Security Council spokeswoman, said the current focus of discussions with Iraq "is to build the capacity of the Iraqis to successfully confront and deal with the threat posed by [ISIS]."

ISIS overran Tikrit, the birthplace of former dictator Saddam Hussein, on Wednesday after capturing Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, a day earlier. The takeover of the city of 250,000 about 85 miles north of Baghdad was confirmed by Ali Al Hamdani, a senior official in Salah Al Din province, where the city is located. The insurgents freed hundreds of prisoners from the city's jails.

By Wednesday evening, there were reports of fighting between Iraqi security forces and Islamists on the outskirts of Samarra, a city further south and less than 80 miles north of the capital.

Regional officials said they were worried that significant stocks of weapons ISIS fighters stole from military bases in northern Iraq could be transported across borders and used in conflicts and terror attacks elsewhere.

U.S. counterterrorism officials said on Tuesday that the attacks show the degree to which Islamist militants have established a revolving door between Iraq and Syria, with fighters flowing easily between the two countries and fueling conflict in both.

Somehow, ISIS rebels numbering in the hundreds, or perhaps low thousands, have managed to rout two full Iraqi brigades numbering some 30,000 troops from their positions and send them fleeing. That tells you everything you need to know about the esprit de corps of the Iraqi 'army.' It's not an effective fighting force at the moment.

Awkward Alliances

Now we get to the second awkward part of this story for the US. Along with Saudi Arabia, the US has been supplying weapons and training to the Syrian rebels many of whom are now heading south towards Baghdad.
To fight them would essentially mean fighting our own weapons and training. 
I'm really impressed with the ability of the US news industry, such as in the article above, in keeping out the extremely obvious connection between the hard line Syrian rebels we are supporting and the ISIS rebels now heading south. 
After all, it's not like the news is hidden, or only located on the fringe of the blogosphere. It's been widely reported for over a year that the US has been providing high level training and weapons to the Syrian rebels. Note that this next article from the Washington Post is over 9 months old:
CIA begins weapons delivery to Syrian rebels
Sept 11, 2013
The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials and Syrian figures. The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.
Even more recently, it's been reported that the US has provided high tech anti-tank and anti aircraft weapons systems and training. This is state-of-the-art warcraft for ground troops:
U.S. training Syrian rebels; White House 'stepped up assistance'
June 12, 2014

WASHINGTON — White House officials refused to comment Friday on a Los Angeles Times report that CIA operatives and U.S. special operations troops have been secretly training Syrian rebels with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons since late last year, saying only that the U.S. had increased its assistance to the rebellion.

The covert U.S. training at bases in Jordan and Turkey began months before President Obama approved plans to begin directly arming the opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assadaccording to U.S. officials and rebel commanders.

“We have stepped up our assistance, but I cannot inventory for you all the elements of that assistance,”White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. “We have provided and will continue to provide substantial assistance to the Syrian opposition, as well as the Supreme Military Council.”
And PBS recently weighed in with a documentary on the matter, describing training in Qatar which disturbingly sounds a lot like instruction in how to commit war crimes:
Syrian Rebels Describe U.S.-Backed Training in Qatar
May 26, 2014

WASHINGTON — With reports indicating that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad are gaining ground in that country’s brutal civil war, moderate Syrian rebels have told a visiting journalist that the United States is arranging their training in Qatar.

In a documentary to be aired Tuesday night, the rebels describe their clandestine journey from the Syrian battlefield to meet with their American handlers in Turkey and then travel on to Qatar, where they say they received training in the use of sophisticated weapons and fighting techniques, including,one rebel said, “how to finish off soldiers still alive after an ambush.”
The interviews are the latest evidence that after more than three years of warfare, the United States has stepped up the provision of lethal aid to the rebels. In recent months, at least five rebel units have posted videos showing their members firing U.S.-made TOW anti-tank missiles at Syrian positions.

The weapons are believed to have come from Saudi Arabia, but experts on international arms transfers have told McClatchy that theycould not have been given to the rebels without the approval of the Obama administration.

At Risk: MUCH Higher Oil Prices

The summary here is that the 'rebels' the US is supporting in Syria are part of the very same group that is now headed towards Baghdad.  They are all Sunni hard liners and they will not rest until they have created a new Sunni state for themselves. 
It's really that simple.
What's not simple is understanding what the US' motivations are here in wanting to topple so many regimes in the Middle East and North Africa.  Is it to appease our Saudi allies who also support Sunni causes across the region?  Is it to create an entire region of failed states because that serves some larger master plan?
Most importantly, did the US really think that we could both arm the Sunni rebelsand support the brutal Shiite hard liner al-Maliki (the current president of Iraq) in Baghdad as he consolidated Shiite power at the expense of the Sunnis?  Why arm and support both sides, unless the goal was a bloody and protracted stalemate?
At any rate, US foreign policy is again in tatters and if it seems like there's no solid plan here, perhaps that's because there isn't one.  It's either a really complex and genius plan or intense bumbling and stumbling.  Sometimes it's hard to tell these things apart.
There was practically no chance of Iraq holding together after the US destroyed the country and then left it without any functioning state apparatus strong enough to withstand 14 centuries' worth of carefully-nurtured resentments in a harsh land with little going for it beyond the oil that will someday be gone.
At any rate, we'll just have to keep watching as all this develops. In the meantime, the biggest risk here is that this becomes a wider regional war.  One that begins by enveloping all of Iraq and which cuts off that countries oil exports for a while.
In Part 2: Oil At Risk, we lay out the very real and growing risk that a coming decrease in Iraq oil exports created by the current turmoil will result in an oil price spike that could approach $150 per barrel (or even worse under certain situations). Such a development would almost certainly plunge the global economy back in to Recession and financial crisis. We address the defensive steps concerned individuals should take now in advance of such a highly undesirable turn of events.


Qatari: U.S. intervention in Iraq would be seen as war on Sunni Arabs


A former Qatari ambassador to the United States offered up a warning to the Obama administration Monday that any military intervention on behalf of the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki would be seen as an act of “war” on the entire community of Sunni Arabs.
Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad al Khalifa also warned against the United States working with Iran to repulse the advance by the radical Sunni group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, something that Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday the United States would be willing to consider.
“For the West or Iran or the two working together to fight beside Maliki against Sunni Arabs will be seen as another conspiracy against Sunni,” Khalifa tweeted.
Khalifa’s comments via Twitter (@NasserIbnHamad) show the complicated calculations the Obama administration faces as it considers whether to come to Maliki’s aid while insurgents from ISIS consolidate their gains over much of northern and central Iraq and menace the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
Maliki’s Shiite Muslim government has angered Sunnis across the Arab world for being close to Shiite-ruled Iran and for what Sunnis describe as widespread mistreatment of their co-religionists in Iraq.
Khalifa retired from Qatar’s diplomatic service in 2007, but he remains an influential voice in Qatari foreign-policy circles.
The sentiments behind his warning were reflected in remarks that Qatar’s foreign minister, Khalid bin Mohammed al Attiyah, made Sunday in Bolivia and that were distributed Monday by Qatar’s official news service.
Attiyah stopped far short of Khalifa’s suggestion that airstrikes would be seen as an act of war by Sunnis outside Iraq, and he didn’t mention Sunnis specifically in the comments released Monday. But he laid blame for the rapid advance of ISIS squarely on Maliki’s rule. He said Maliki had deliberately excluded “large groups of Iraqis” from sharing in power.
“While we strongly condemn terrorism and violence in all its forms and manifests,” Attiyah said, “we must, however, take into account the fact that injustice, exclusion, marginalization and use of security and military solutions exclusively to suppress popular demands can . . . fuel violence and contribute to its expansion.”
He added, “We swiftly urge those concerned to pay attention to the demands of large segments of the population who only seek equality and participation, away from all forms of sectarian or denominational discrimination.”
President Barack Obama made similar demands Friday, saying he’d asked the Pentagon to draw up a list of possible options to stop the ISIS advance but that the United States would consider taking those steps only if Iraq’s feuding politicians could resolve their differences _ something few observers believe is possible.
Khalifa’s warning about how Sunnis elsewhere in the Arab world would view American military intervention draws attention to other concerns that might influence U.S. actions on Maliki’s behalf.
The split between the Sunni and Shiite interpretations of Islam date to the seventh century, but it drives modern rivalries between Shiite-led Iran and Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf monarchies. Qatar has been a close collaborator with the United States in Syria and elsewhere and it’s home to the U.S. Central Command’s forward Air Force detachment at al Udeid Air Base outside Doha.
In his comments, Khalifa noted that Maliki has ruled Iraq for more than eight years, longer than Obama has been the U.S. president, and that in that time Maliki had squandered “any chance” to build a nonsectarian, stable and all-inclusive country.
“Gulf states should inform the West any intervention in Iraq or military cooperation with Iran to prop up al Maliki will be considered unfriendly,” he tweeted.
“Any intervention in Iraq by the West to prop up criminal al Maliki in Iraq will be seen by the whole Sunni Arabs and Muslims as war against them.”
The Qatari diplomat accused Maliki of going on a “crusade against Iraqi Sunni Arabs, killing them and bombing their cities.”
He called the ISIS advance the “logical outcome” and said it was “no surprise to any observer of Iraq’s politics.”
“ISIS is a tiny element in the bigger revolt by Iraq’s Arab Sunni tribes who suffered so much under Maliki sectarian regime. . . . Maliki has been bombing&destroying Sunni Arabs cities and killing them for the past six month,” he said.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/06/16/4182241/qatari-us-intervention-in-iraq.html#storylink=cpy

Pentagon Denies Plan to Coordinate Iraq Strikes With Iran

Security Talks With Iran May Still Go Ahead

by Jason Ditz, June 16, 2014
Despite the Obama Administration considering direct security talks with Iran on the worsening situation in Iraq, the Pentagon insists that there will be no coordinated military action with Iran.
Iran was the first country to send aid to Iraq’s Maliki government as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) began to sweep through the nation’s west and drew close to Baghdad. The Iranian Quds Force commander is coordinating the defense of Baghdad.
The Obama Administration has raised the prospect of similarly aiding the Maliki government, likely with air strikes, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani proposed a joint operation to save their mutual ally from the ISIS takeover.
The Pentagon has long blamed Iran for everything that has gone wrong with Iraq, particularly during the long US occupation, and even though that narrative no longer flies in the face of the growing sectarian war, it seems the mistrust remains. The Pentagon is adamant on this, though the State Department is said to be more open to the idea.


Israel Warns US Against Cooperating With Iran on Iraq

Steinitz: Cooperation Would 'Soften' US Position on Iran

by Jason Ditz, June 16, 2014
Israeli officials, led by Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, have issued warnings to the US that they view the reports of potential US-Iranian cooperation on Iraq with the utmost concern.
Reports have been growing over the weekend of US openness to cooperating with Iran on the defense of mutual ally Iraq, which is facing major losses from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters. Thenations discussed the issue on the sidelines of the latest P5+1 nuclear talks in Vienna.
Israel has been opposed to the nuclear talks with Iran in the first place, and is extra opposed now that it might lead to a cooperation deal which, as Steinitz said, would “soften” the US position on Iran.
Steinitz claimed to have been assured that a “total separation” of the Iraq war and Iran’s civilian nuclear program would be enforced, and that he objected to the prospect of talks with Iran on anything but the nuclear program.


ISIS Proposes Truce With Iraqi Kurds as Fighting Grows

Kurdish Peshmerga Reluctant to Fight Baghdad's Battles

by Jason Ditz, June 16, 2014
Officers in the Kurdish Peshmerga paramilitary force say that they have received aninformal offer of a truce from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syrian (ISIS) fighters who have been sweeping through Iraq recently.
“If you don’t attack us, we would not attack you,” appears to have been the extent of the offer, which was delivered by courier from ISIS territory to Peshmerga fighters south of Kirkuk.
Though ISIS has often fought with the Kurdish factions in Syria, they have so far focused on the military in Iraq, against whom they have won several overwhelming victories.
The Peshmerga has used the fighting as an opportunity to seize some Iraqi cities of their own, and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) seems to be getting closer to outright secession. Given that, they seem in no hurry to start fighting ISIS, especially if ISIS isn’t going to threaten their territory.
That could change quickly, of course, but for now it seems mutually beneficial for ISIS and the KRG to ignore one another and focus instead on shoring up their respective domains out of territory the Maliki government simply can’t hold any longer.

Tweets of the morning......


border crossing fully controlled by tribe fighters. No single soldier around..

SWAT squads executed ~60 prisoners in al-Mafraq police station before evacuating areas in

|i government says takes responsibility of funding and supporting the terrorist groups in ..

reportedly started evacuating tens of its staff in to . Remaining staff may evacuate to .

forces reportedly evacuating airbase north ..


After regime lost refinery south of they must import 50% of their fuel needs

BBC: Kurdish PM calls for sunni arab autonomy regions-similar to Kurdish region. Barsani accused to oppress Sunni arabs

tens of thousands shiite volunteers gathered at int. airport of to fight against

Exodus of people in after shiite militias invade the mainly kurdish province now

Huge crowd gathered in -wait for the public execution of captured -General "Abu Walid" by

's Regime-forces executed more than160 detainees in the prisons of &

« Breaking News »

Iraq’s biggest oil refinery shut down by foreign staff evacuation 
DEBKAfile June 17, 2014, 2:20 PM (IDT)

After taking control of the northern Iraqi town of Baiji, ISIS Islamists were reported closing in on its refinery, causing the evacuation of foreign staff and shutting down the production of some 300,000 barrels of oil per day, much of it for local consumption, including for the capital, Baghdad.


The US and Iran took the first steps for their military cooperation in Iraq on June 16, at the same time as Israel declared war on Tehran’s Palestinian ally, Hamas, in the wake of a fruitless four-day sweep of the West Bank Hebron region for the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped on June 12, and the detention of hundreds of Hamas activists – which Israel leaders said was just the beginning.

The talks between Washington and Tehran on working together in Iraq (A prospect first envisaged  by DEBKA Weekly 639 on June 14)  were revealed Monday by Secretary of State John Kerry who told a Yahoo interviewer that the US is “open to discussing any constructive process here… Let’s see what Iran might or might not be willing to do before we start making any pronouncements. I would not rule out anything that would be constructive to providing real stability.”

He also said that President Obama was vetting "every option that is available," including drone strikes.

But, for once, reality  moved ahead of diplomatic caution.
Overnight, President Obama informed Congress that up to 275 troops could be sent to Iraq to provide support and security for US personnel and the American Embassy in Baghdad,which with a staff of 5,000 is the largest in the world. About 170 of those forces are already in Iraq.

DEBKAfile: That is only the first step, to be followed by more. US naval, air and Marine forces are assembling in the Persian Gulf ready to go in.

Ahead of them, Iran sent at least 2,000 troops and the Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimeni to Baghdad.

Monday, The Iraqi crisis deteriorated further when ISIS seized Tal Afar, a key city on the Syrian border for its  Islamist state which is planned to span Iraq and Syria.

US and British sources report that Washington and Tehran are in practical talks on their respective roles: One proposal is for the US to provide air cover for Iranian ground troops and support in the form of air strikes against Al Qaeda targets.

The repercussions of this collaboration may at some point intersect with Israel’s long-delayed confrontation with Tehran’s Palestinian proxy, Hamas.  

Israel’s leaders issued a blunt declaration of war on the Palestinian Hamas Tuesday, June 16, when the three Israeli teenagers remained missing. The mass detentions of Hamas activists was just the start of the pressure aimed at crushing their organization’s terrorist infrastructure, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, declared after their latest situation update.

More and tougher military operations were coming until the mission was accomplished – however grave the consequences and however long it takes, they said.

The chief of staff also made it clear that the IDF stands ready to hit back at Hamas’ Gaza strongholds in the event of a Hamas rejoinder to the harsh pressure clamped down on its West Bank organization.
By its policy of silence - abstaining from owning up to the kidnapping or uttering a single word about it -  Hamas has left Israel with no option but to confront the extremist organization head-on to force the issue.

Hamas’ political leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip – or even its military officers – may be ignorant of the boys’ whereabouts and constrained from admitting as much. Only a very tight hard core may be in possession of this information.

This kind of standoff follows the lines of the abduction in 2006 of the Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit by an international terrorist league of which Hamas was a member. It took years for the circumstances of his capture to come to light after the Palestinian group gained the release of nearly a thousand of its jailed members.

In the case of Naftali Frenkel, Gil-Ad Sha’ar and Eyal Yifrach, DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report that the IDF, Mossad, AMAN and the Shin Bet are better informed than they were in the hunt Gilead Shalit. This information is kept under tight wraps so as not to compromise the search.

But in the absence of a glimmer of light, Netanyahu, Ya’alon and Gantz cut through the emotionally-charged atmosphere in the country with a caution to be patient because the operation to smash Hamas, though determined and all-encompassing, is likely to be protracted and difficult.

It is also worth noting that even if leads to the mystery do turn up, the IDF and government may find as often before that their hands are tied by interminable legalistic quibbles and delays. Israeli left wing fringes make a habit of teaming up with Palestinian associates to throw up walls against security-related actions by petitions to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem to defeat or at least slow down those actions.

At the same time, it is to the credit of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that, appreciating the complexity of the crisis and Israel’s sensitivities, picked up the phone and for the first time in many months talked to Binyamin Netanyahu. After condemning the abductions, he said he hoped the boys would return home safely. He also assured the Israeli prime minister of his continued cooperation, notwithstanding the constant assaults directed against him and the Palestinian Authority’s security and intelligence agencies.

That call was the first positive outcome of Netanyahu’s actions in this episode and the only one so far.

It will be interesting to see how the juxtaposition of the first US-Iranian military coordination in Iraq and Israel’s operation to hammer Tehran’s protégée, both epic events, affects US-Israeli relations.