Fighting continues to spread in Iraq with a couple of new players making their entrance.
Syrian warplanes are reported to have bombed ISIL militant positions in the town of Al Qaim, straddling the Iraqi-Syrian border and a key crossing point for the militant Sunni fighters.
An earlier report said the Syrians had bombed ISIL within Iraq, but in any case the Syrian’s move was welcomed by Iraq’s prime minister.
In Beiji the government released pictures of its forces in control of at least part of the country’s biggest refinery. ISIL has been fighting for control of the facility for the past week. Baghdad says they have been completely pushed back.
The second major player entering the conflict is the influential Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
He said: “First: fighting and terrorising civilians should stop. Second, the Iraqi government must fulfil the legitimate demands of moderate Iraqi Sunnis who suffered exclusion and marginalisation. And third, the formation of a national government with new faces which include all Iraqi faiths and rejects sectarian quotas must be speeded up.”
Al-Sadr’s attempt to bridge the sectarian divide runs parallel with his ability to mobilise tens of thousands of Shi’ite fighters if needs be, and comes just a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rejected the idea of an interim national unity government.