Residents of the Iraqi city of Fallujah are fleeing in their thousands as the government launches air strikes in a bid to take back control from al-Qaeda-linked militants.
The battle for Fallujah – a highly symbolic city for many Iraqis – comes as Sunni tribesmen agree to fight along side Iraqi security forces .
The renewed violence in the region has raised concerns about the stability of the government.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has dismissed suggestions that the US has abandoned Iraq:
“We are not, obviously, contemplating returning. We’re not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight. And yes, we have an interest. We have an interest in helping a legitimate and elected government be able to push back against the terrorists. This is a fight bigger that just Iraq.”
Iran has also offered military support, though again not troops. Both Washington and Tehran are concerned about the upsurge in al- Qaeda activity in Anbar province – the group which is known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant is also operating in Syria.