Iraq strains for unity in face of Sunni advance

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Iraq strains for unity in face of Sunni advance

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Iraq stands on the brink of an uncertain future this weekend. It is one of the region’s rare democracies and should be preparing for a new government; instead the administration is in a struggle for survival.

As ISIL fighters have swept in from the west it has been made clear the Kurds will not fight for Iraq, and the Sunnis welcome the militants as liberators from rule by the hated Shi’ite majority. Iraq only means opression for most Sunnis, so the aims of the ISIL leaders to redraw the region’s maps and establish a Caliphate from Syria to the Iranian border find an echo.

Iraq’s Shias are mostly in the south, and their natural allies are Iran. In this way a whole region’s stability is threatened by ISIL’s advance.
Hostile forces are now an hour’s drive from Baghdad, and there are few signs Iraq has any military unit ready to face them.

The Americans warned Iraq maintenance and training would be crucial to keeping the army effective; it appears corruption has starved units of funds, sapping morale and encouraging decay and desertion. Many senior officers have disappeared.

Prime Minister Maliki has visited a Shi’ite shrine in Samara to insist the rebels advance no further. Is anyone listening?