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Iraq\'s crisis deepens.

NOURI AL Maliki is fighting back. Hours after the United States-trained security forces melted down before the intruding extremists, the prime minister promised to push back the rebels and reclaim the territory to its north.

This, however, won't be an easy task and it remains to be seen how the embattled leader plays his cards. The sudden rise and onslaught of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) had posed serious questions on the future of Iraq's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Keeping in view the disgraced flight of state army from Mosul and elsewhere in the north, it is difficult to say how long can the army fight on the insurgents. But the masterstroke to save Baghdad seems to have come in the form of volunteers who are lining up to join the state machinery, in what is being described as the would-be toughest duel in Iraq's contemporary history.

The edict from revered Grand Ayatollah Syed Ali Sistani to take up arms in self-defence had come as a blessing in disguise for Maliki's beleaguered administration.

Moreover, the pledge from Iran that it is ready to support in whatever form and manifestation to stem the tide of rebels advance on Baghdad would surely act as a deterrent.

Last but not the least, the firm words from US President Barack Obama that the ISIS could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well has stirred an unending debate of new alliances on the stage of real politik.

Baghdad's indispensability for both Washington and Tehran on obvious strategic ground could compel them to cooperate, truly on the lines of a similar but unannounced deal that was there in Afghanistan in fighting the Taleban and Al Qaeda.

Now with pro-Al Qaeda affiliates merely 200 kilometers away from the seat of Iraq, the US, the European Union and, of course, Iran cannot sit idle to see the militants turn into another Kabul.

Irrespective of the fact that Obama had categorically ruled out boots on ground, which is a wise policy, there is a lot more that could come in the form of target-precision airstrikes to crush the ISIL, and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces.

The least that Washington can afford to see is Al Qaeda men calling the shots in Baghdad because that is bound to have a snowball reaction elsewhere in the region.

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Publication:Frontier Post (Peshawar, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Jun 17, 2014
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