Radical Sunni insurgents, led by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have seized a border post on the Iraq-Syria frontier. The captured border post, located in the town of Al-Qaim in Iraq, has been a strategic location as it connects Syria and Iraq. Taking control of this border town took ISIL one step closer to its ultimate goal of building a continuous state ruled by Sunni Muslims from Iraq to Syria.
Associated Press and other sources report last Friday that ISIL took control of Al-Qaim, a small town in western Iraq at the border crossing with Syria, and other strategic locations of Rawa, Ana and Husaybah in the province of Anbar have been fallen and now under control of ISIL.
ISIL has been making efforts to connect the captured regions in Syria and Iraq. ISIL insurgents have seized three cities at minimum in the province of Deir ez-Zor in Syria, which is sitting across from Al-Qaim. Al-Nusra Front, another rebel group in Syria, has seized Al-Bukamal, the neighboring Syrian counterpart of Al-Qaim.
Associated Press analyzed that ISILs seize of the border posts will help them in transport of militants, weapons and heavy equipment from Syria and the latest gains by ISIL are a further blow to Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqs Shia prime minister.
The three towns in the province of Anbar fallen to ISIL are situated along a highway from Syria to Baghdad. The U.S. news channel CNN reports that it takes less than four hours for the militants from Syria to reach the outskirts of Baghdad.
The capture of the town of Rawah on the Euphrates River and the nearby town of Anah puts in threat a key dam in the city of Haditha. Any destruction of the dam would have a serious impact on the country`s electrical grid and cause major flooding. The Iraqi government quickly dispatched more than 2,000 troops to the site of the dam to protect it against a possible attack.
Thousands of Shia militias that support the Iraqi government paraded in Baghdad, heavily armed with machine guns, multiple rocket launchers and missiles. This parade is interpreted as an intention to threaten the insurgents by showing the military power of Shiite government supporting group and to call for gathering of the Shiite.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama authorized a secret plan late last year to aid Iraqi troops in their fight against Sunni extremists, reported by the Wall Street Journal on Sunday. However, it also reported that the plan ended up with sharing intelligence on the militants` desert encampments due to concerns and distrust that information from the U.S. might fall in Iranian hands.