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Al-Qaeda Offshoot ISIS Marches Towards Baghdad, Taking Major Stockpiles of U.S.-Provided Arms

The Telegraph on Wednesday described the United States and Britain as having expressed deep concerns over the ongoing seizure of Iraqi territory by fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), as forces from the Al Qaeda offshoot followed up their Tuesday conquest of Mosul – Iraq’s second largest city – by overrunning Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.

By day’s end the United Nations had echoed the stance and delivered a strong condemnation:

In a statement, the UN Security Council said it “deplored in the strongest terms the recent events in the city of Mosul” and expressed concern for the hundreds of thousands who have since fled their homes.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on “the international community to unite in showing solidarity with Iraq as it confronts this serious security challenge”.

The ongoing march, which has brought enormous stockpiles of weapons and money under ISIS control, has been described as nothing short of catastrophic for Middle East stability.

The Wall Street Journal assessed by mid-Wednesday that the Islamist forces may be consolidating their forces in preparation for a march on Baghdad.

The Daily Beast had already assessed that ISIS was on the verge of becoming a “a full-blown army” and that – with the aid of the “heavy weapons and vehicles [that] the U.S. military had provided Iraq’s military,” which ISIS had gained in Mosul and elsewhere – it was approaching the point where it could establish the contours of a terror state. The outlet also gestured toward potential domestic consequences of the geopolitical developments:

With the fall of Mosul on Tuesday, Iraq’s al Qaeda offshoot has not only seized the country’s second-largest city, it appears it also has come into possession of the heavy weapons and vehicles the U.S. military had provided Iraq’s military to fight them.

That’s terrible news for America’s few allies left in Iraq as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS) morph from terrorist menace to a military force capable of over-running an army the U.S. military trained for nearly a decade. It also calls into question the American government’s decision to withdraw the last of its forces from Iraq in 2011. Three years later that withdrawal now appears premature.

The setbacks may erode the confidence of lawmakers in the Obama administration’s broader approach to the Middle East, just as the White House is approaching a deadline for concluding P5+1 talks with Iran that all sides agree will require some form of congressional assent.

[Photo: CBS Evening News / YouTube]