On Monday, ISIS forces continued fighting in Tikrit, a city which lies 100 miles northwest of Baghdad. Additional clashes were reported 35 miles south of Tikrit, in Samarra.
The additional personnel announced by the White House on Monday began arriving one day earlier, on Sunday, according to Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby.
“The presence of these additional forces will help enable the Embassy to continue its critical diplomatic mission and work with Iraq on challenges they are facing as they confront ISIL (ISIS),” said Kirby.
Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki lashed out at the US for alleged delays in the delivery of purchased F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters. In the meantime, Iraq has begun receiving a number of Russian fighter jets to mount a campaign against ISIS movements in the region.
Highlighting the complexity of different interests in the region, both Iran and Syria have also become active in combating ISIS within Iraqi territory. Iran has reportedly sent military equipment and is currently flying surveillance drones over Baghdad, while there have been reports of air raids conducted within Iraq by Syria’s air force.
Though ISIS has seen its territories in Iraq’s north expand, the current belief is that Baghdad itself is not in danger of being overrun. Still, US efforts to bolster the city’s security reveal that the Pentagon is taking the threat seriously.
ISIS, now the Islamic State, has risen to become a formidable alliance comprised of Sunni radicals in Iraq, alongside former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.
“You could see it coming as the Baathists joined with them at the upper levels,” a British officer with knowledge of the Saddam regime told McClatchy DC news.
“These are the men who ran Saddam’s Iraq, and whatever you think of those old bastards, there was one thing they were very good at: controlling Iraq like nobody else ever did,” the former officer said.
The Islamic group has also preyed on dissatisfaction among Iraq’s Sunni minority, who feel they have been pushed aside by Maliki’s government. Recent fighting has worried many who fear a return to the country’s worst period of sectarian bloodshed in 2006 and 2007.