Iraq might be getting support from unlikely partners since extremist militants shocked the world by taking Mosul on Tuesday. The militants are alternately called "insurgents" or ISIS and each day brings news of more towns coming under their control. The insurgents are within 60 miles of Baghdad and Iran has vowed to stop them. The Kurdish government replaced Iraqi forces that abandoned Kirkuk. According to a June 13 NBC News report, the militants met another shocking milestone. They robbed a bank of $450 million, becoming the richest and most well armed militant group in Iraq and possibly the entire middle east.
As the insurgents reach Baghdad, there are reports of fleeing citizens being charged up to $100 to leave the city. Drivers are allegedly refusing to take able bodied men as passengers because they are the most likely to be killed. Shiite Mosques are broadcasting calls for men to take up arms and defend the city.
The biggest problem is with the Iraqi soldiers who abandon vehicles, equipment and weapons as they flee. This leaves a lot of U.S. supplied equipment, including Humvees, for the militants to use.
As soon as they control a city or area, the militants impose the harshest forms of Shariah law. They outlaw all other religions. Women are ordered to wear the traditional Muslim head and body covering. Other restrictions are a fickle matter. They might include prohibiting use of marijuana, alcohol. Western culture and non-Muslim traditions are also targeted as each new local oligarch sees fit.
Many are questioning how Iraq's government allowed the militants to gain such strength and power in the first place. The U.S. is accused of "taking a nap" by a congressman who was napping, himself. Even Iran was been caught off guard by the surprise attacks.
Iran is now rumored to be sending forces to help fight ISIS in Iraq. This could lead to an unprecedented war where U.S. backed Iraq and U.S. enemy Iran wind up fighting together against a common enemy who was built by Al-Qaeda. The Kurdish government to the north is another unlikely ally.
According to a June 12 Wall Street Journal report, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani said in a speech that,
"We, as the Islamic Republic of Iran, won't tolerate this violence and terrorism…. We will fight and battle violence and extremism and terrorism in the region and the world."
Iran and Al-Qaeda were trying to carve out a Shiite-controlled "crescent" that would extend from from Iran and incorporate parts of Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. Iran has a friend in the Assad regime and we see how that disastrous alliance worked out. Iran is particularly adamant that Karbala, Najaf and the sacred Shiite sites of Mecca and Medina will not be overrun by the militants.
Iranian Revolutionary Guards units are being dispatched to Iraq. A 60 mile buffer zone was established and the Iranian air force allegedly has orders to bomb any ISIS rebels that enter the zone. Another option is for Iran to move its volunteer forces from Syria to Iraq should ISIS become more of a threat to Baghdad.
To summarize the situation, Shiite militants assumed to be ISIS have reached critical mass. They have money, state-of-the-art material from the U.S., training by Iran and enough territory to eliminate the border between Syria and northern Iraq. However, it seems that ISIS is now an independent and powerful force with its own ideas about creating a "Shiite Crescent."