Today the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS), an al-Qaeda splinter group led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, seized control of Tikrit, marking the militant group’s continued territorial advancement from Aleppo, Syria through Iraq’s al-Anbar province and into northern and eastern Iraq.
Yesterday, ISIS seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city with a population of 1.8 million. In doing so, the group seized control of key financial, personnel, and military assets. Reports indicate that the militia seized Iraqi military equipment, freed ISIS members currently held in Mosul’s prisons, and stole around $429 million from Mosul’s central bank.
In recent days, parts of Kirkuk and Samarra and key military and oil assets have also fallen under the black flag of ISIS. The group’s movement has sparked serious security and humanitarian concerns within the international community and appears to mark a larger advance towards Baghdad.
In addition to such actions, the violence in Mosul is forcing 100,000s of residents to flee their homes. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that an estimated 500,000 Iraqis were already displaced from in and around Mosul by violence over the weekend, and with the collapse of Iraq’s Security Forces, a further exodus of residents is expected. Iraqi families are also fleeing from their homes in Tikrit, Kirkuk, Samarra, and other areas that have fallen or where intensive fighting continues.
With Iraq’s population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) nearing 1.4 million prior to this most recent violence, the new total may soon exceed 2 million.
With a stronger ISIS and increasing humanitarian concerns, the current situation in Iraq is extremely sensitive and demands immediate action by the United States and the international community. President Barack Obama needs to articulate and rally support for both immediate action and for a clear, long-term strategy for peace in Iraq and the region.
Here are three things that you can do to help: 1. Call or write your elected representatives and senators. 2. Call or write the White House. You can also submit a comment or question. 3. Write a letter to the editor of newspapers, both local and national, responding to their coverage of Iraq. If your local newspaper failed to cover the fall of Mosul as a front page news story today , challenge their editorial policy.