ISIL Militants Seize Border Post, Move East Into Iraq

IRAQ-UNREST-TIKRITU.S. stock futures are slightly negative for Monday after Euro-area manufacturing and services activity slowed in June, dampening investor sentiment which came on the heels of better than expected preliminary manufacturing data out of China with expansion for the first time since December.

On Friday the Dow and S&P 500 reclaimed five week highs while Brent crude oil climbed over 2 percent for the week after touching a 9 month high on Thursday amid increasing tension and political strife in Iraq.

Over the week-end, Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to the Middle East and is attempting to forge reconciliation across a divided region that is gaining more international attention after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), made recent military advances into Iraq along the western region of the country that borders Syria and Saudi Arabia.

On Sunday ISIL moved further east into Iraq after seizing a Iraqi-Syrian border post on Sunday and capturing three towns in Anbar, Iraq’s largest geographical province with Ramadi as its provincial capital.

Iraq’s more secular- minded Baath’s, which has ties to overthrown Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and share a common Sunni background with ISIL militants and dislike for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite (also spelled Shia), began fighting one another on Friday evening.

The fighting between the two Sunni groups continued until Saturday, according to the New York Times.

ISIL militants are seeking to consolidate power and dismantle the borders that were previously drawn by European colonial powers nearly 100 years ago following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in a push to re-establish a caliphate, an Islamic state run by a supreme religious and political leader, the caliph.

After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Mustafa Atatürk, abolished the system of caliphate in Islam and founded the Republic of Turkey  in 1923.

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was a secular-minded socialist and Arab nationalist who had little tolerance for a caliphate system operating in Iraq.

After the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, deposed Sadaam Hussein, and later installed the Iraqi Transitional Government, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki took over control of the country and is serving in his second term as prime minister.

Many Iraqi Sunnis are distrustful of Nouri al-Maliki’s government for being non- inclusive and remain deeply suspicious of its close with Iran, a country dominated by Shiites.

President Obama has a balancing act to maneuver in Iraq as the calls grow louder across the region for a leadership change in Iraq.

President Obama admitted on June 19th that “It’s not the place for the United States to choose Iraq’s leaders” and “It is in our national security interests not to see an all-out civil war inside of Iraq.”

But Obama repeated earlier in the week that the U.S. has not ruled out the use of air attacks on ISIL militants operating in Iraq.

At the same time, President Obama doesn’t want the United States to be viewed as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s elite air force in Iraq and take sides in a sectarian conflict that has religious undertones.

The Obama administration agreed late last week to send 300 U.S. military advisers to Iraq to help combat ISIL, share intelligence, reconnaissance assets, and encourage al-Maliki’s government in Baghdad to become more inclusive of Iraq’s Sunnis, Kurdish, and Christian populations.

– Johnathan Schweitzer

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