Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, June 2014
ISIS Declares Caliphate in Iraq and Syria, Fighting Intensifies in Tikrit
June 30, 2014
The Arabic report is from the Yeqen news agency
The following is an edited Reuters' news report:
As caliphate declared, Iraqi troops battle for Tikrit
By Oliver Holmes and Isra'a al-Rubei'i
BAGHDAD Mon Jun 30, 2014 8:02am EDT
Iraqi troops battled to dislodge (Iraqi opposition fighters) from the city of Tikrit on Monday after their leader was declared caliph of a new Islamic state in lands seized this month across a swathe of Iraq and Syria.
Alarming regional and world powers, the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (Levant), SIL, claimed universal authority when it dropped the local element in its name and said its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as leader of the Islamic State, was now Caliph of the Muslim World - a title last widely recognized in the Ottoman sultan deposed 90 years ago after World War One.
"He is the imam and Caliph for Muslims everywhere," group spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani said in an online statement on Sunday, using titles that carry religious and civil power. The declaration came at the start of the holy month of Ramadan.
The move, which follows a three-week drive for territory by ISIS fighters and allies among Iraqi's Sunni Muslim minority, aims to erase international borders drawn by colonial powers and defy Baghdad's U.S.- and Iranian-backed, Shi'i-led government.
It also poses a direct challenge to the global leadership of al Qaeda, which has disowned it, and to conservative Gulf Arab Sunni rulers who already view the group as a security threat.
Fighters from (the Iraqi opposition groups) overran the Iraqi city of Mosul on June 10 and have advanced toward Baghdad, prompting the dispatch of U.S. military advisers. In Syria, ISIS has captured territory in the north and east, along the desert frontier with Iraq.
The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, with the help of Shi'i sectarian militias, has managed to stop the (opposition fighters) from reaching the capital but security forces have been unable to take back cities they abandoned in the fighting.
The army attempted last week to take back Tikrit but was unable to seize the city. Helicopters hit (opposition) positions around the city overnight. On the southern outskirts, a battle raged into Monday, residents in the areas said.
Tikrit was the home city of Saddam Hussein, whose overthrow by U.S. forces in 2003 ended a long history of domination by Sunnis over what is today a Shi'i majority in Iraq.
The fighting has started to draw in international support for Baghdad, two and a half years after U.S. troops pulled out.
Armed and trained by the United States, Iraq's armed forces crumbled in the face of the ISIS onslaught and have struggled to bring heavier weaponry to bear. Only two aircraft - turboprop Cessna Caravans normally used as short-range passenger and cargo carriers - are capable of firing the powerful Hellfire missile.
The U.S. is flying armed and unarmed aircraft in Iraq's airspace but says it has not engaged in fighting.
Russia has sent its first warplanes to Baghdad, filling an order for five second-hand Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack jets. The government said they will be operational within a few days.
The ISIS has used alliances with other Sunni armed groups and tribal fighters who are disillusioned with Maliki. Members of Saddam’s secular Ba'ath party have also fought in the revolt.
The term Caliph indicates a successor to the Prophet Mohammad, with temporal authority over all Muslims.
Traditionally it denotes a political and military leader with religious elements. Rival claims to the succession lie at the root of the 7th century schism between Sunnis and Shi'is.
Following Turkey's defeat in World War One and the carving up of its Middle East empire by Britain and France, new Turkish nationalist rulers in 1924 formally abolished the Caliphate that Ottoman sultans had held for nearly five centuries.
For many Islamists, who see a decline in religious observance and divisions among Muslims as causing many problems, the restoration of the caliphate has been an important goal.
According to the mid-20th century Egyptian Islamist writer Sayyid Qutb, in order to bring about a new caliphate, at least one state must revive Islamic rule.
Since the Ottoman collapse, Sunni Islam has lacked an internationally recognized clerical hierarchy. Senior figures generally hold authority within a single country.
The Islamic State posted pictures online on Sunday of people waving black flags from cars and holding guns in the air, the SITE monitoring service said.
The Islamic State also released a video called "Breaking of the Borders", promoting its destruction of a frontier crossing between the northern province of al-Hasakah in Syria and Nineveh province in Iraq, said SITE, which tracks Islamic websites.
(Additional reporting Sylvia Westall in Beirut, Stephen Kalin in Cairo, William Maclean in Dubai and Tom Henegen in Paris; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)
Syria fighters hail declaration of Islamic 'caliphate'
BEIRUT Mon Jun 30, 2014 8:20am EDT
(Opposition) fighters held a parade in Syria's northern Raqqa province to celebrate their declaration of an Islamic "Caliphate" after the group captured territory in neighboring Iraq, a monitoring service said.
The Islamic State says it wants to erase national boundaries from the Mediterranean to the Gulf and return the region to (an Islamic) caliphate.
Some analysts say the group is a credible threat to frontiers and is stirring regional violence while others say it exaggerates its reach and support through sophisticated media campaigns.
The group renamed itself and proclaimed its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as "Caliph" - the head of the state - on Sunday.
The group has been trying to build strong tribal support in its Raqqa bastion, the only provincial capital in Syria under rebel control.
Islamic State also controls other areas in northern and eastern Syria and across the frontier into Iraq, where it has advanced towards Baghdad from the northern city of Mosul, which it captured on June 10.
"I say to the Islamic Ummah (community): Now we are in Iraq. Allah, glorified and exalted ... smashed these borders, the borders of Sykes-Picot, and now the Muslim can enter Iraq without a passport," the video said, according to a transcript.
"Sykes-Picot" refers to the division of the Ottoman Empire territories in 1916 by Britain and France.
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