NOTE: Due to the changing nature of this important story, which will change even hour by hour, today’s Daily News Article is more of an overview.  For detailed stories, see the links and watch the videos under “Resources” below.

(CBS News) – As ISIS, an al Qaeda splinter group [which follows Sunni Islam] vowed to march on to Baghdad after capturing two key Sunni-dominated cities in Iraq, a Pentagon official told CBS News correspondent David Martin that no decision has been made to provide additional assistance or what it would look like.

iraq-mapAir strikes are being looked at as an option, but “we are no closer (to air strikes) today than yesterday,” said the Pentagon official, who added it was unclear how effective the strikes would be.

CBS News correspondent Holly Williams reported from the city of Irbil that Iraq’s government said it is carrying out military airstrikes against militant strongholds. The government released video Thursday showing an airstrike.

A spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) said the group had old scores to settle with the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.

syria-iraq-isisThe spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, also threatened that ISIS (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL) fighters would take the southern Iraqi Shiite cities of Karbala and Najaf, which hold two of the holiest shrines for Shiite Muslims.

It is unclear what ISIS’s intentions are with regard to Baghdad and it is unclear whether President Maliki’s forces could hold Baghdad, Martin reported. The assessment is that Baghdad is “in jeopardy,” the official said.

Meanwhile, officials told the Associated Press that three planeloads of Americans are being evacuated from a major Iraqi air base in Sunni territory north of Baghdad to escape potential threats from the fast-moving insurgency. A current U.S. official and a former senior Obama administration official said that means the American training mission at the air field in Balad has been grounded indefinitely.

The Pentagon official detailed a long list of equipment either recently supplied or on its way to Iraq but this is all part of the $15 billion arms sales package which the U.S. agreed to accelerate when Maliki was in Washington in December.

Iraq_militant offensive since June09 2014However, there is a danger that any U.S. military equipment supplied to Iraq will fall into the hands of ISIS. So far U.S.-supplied trucks and Humvees have fallen into insurgent hands, but the Pentagon says some of the pictures of captured equipment have actually been Photoshopped from elsewhere on the Internet.

ISIS seized effective control Wednesday of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, expanding their offensive closer to the Iraqi capital as soldiers and security forces abandoned their posts following clashes with the insurgents. A day earlier, the militants — possibly aided by regional tribal militias — took control of much of Mosul.

Pentagon officials blame Maliki for refusing to form a more inclusive government, Martin reports.

Meanwhile, President Obama said Iraq will need more help from the United States as it seeks to push back the violent Islamic insurgency.

Mr. Obama did not specify what type of assistance the U.S. would be willing to provide, but said he had not ruled out any options.

“We do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria, for that matter,” Mr. Obama said during an Oval Office meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Iraq has been beset by violence since the last American forces withdrew in late 2011.

Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from CBS News. Visit the website at cbsnews .com.


Daily posting ends today and will resume August 25th.  Answers” emails will resume September 2nd.

NOTE: Due to the changing nature of this important story, which will change even hour by hour, today’s Daily News Article is more of an overview.  For detailed stories, see the links and watch the videos under “Resources” below.

1.  What are Sunnis and Shiites?

2.  What is ISIS?

3.  What is ISIS’s goal for Iraq?

4.  Name the cities ISIS has taken over by force.

5.  How is the Obama administration responding to the crisis in Iraq?

6.  a) How do you think the U.S. government should respond to the ISIS takeover? (What would be best for the U.S.?)
b)  Ask a parent the same question.



  • Just as there are many denominations of Christianity (such as Catholic or Protestant) and Judaism (such as Orthodox, Conservative or Reform) there are a number of denominations of Islam.
  • The major denominations of Islam are Sunni and Shi’a.
  • Sunni and Shi’a have significant theological differences from each other, but possess the same essential belief in Allah and the Koran.
  • Sunnis make up the majority of Muslims worldwide (80%- 85% of all Muslims are Sunni).
  • The Shia are a minority, comprising between 10 percent and 15 percent of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslim population – certainly fewer than 200 million, all told.
  • The Shia are concentrated in Iran, southern Iraq and southern Lebanon. But there are significant Shiite communities in Saudi Arabia and Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India as well.
  • Shi’as are in the majority in Iraq (approximately 60-65% of Iraq’s population are Shi’a).  Although the minority in Iraq, Sunni Arabs enjoyed favor under Saddam’s rule. (from wikipedia)

from a Reuters report at Chicago Tribune:

  • The stunning advance of ISIL (ISIS), which aims to build a caliphate ruled on medieval Sunni Islamic principles across Syria and Iraq, is the biggest threat to Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew in 2011. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes in fear as the militants seized the main cities of the Tigris valley north of Baghdad in a matter of days.
  • The security forces of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish north, known as the peshmerga, or “those who confront death”, took over bases in Kirkuk vacated by the army, a spokesman said.
  • “The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga,” said peshmerga spokesman Jabbar Yawar. “No Iraqi army remains in Kirkuk now.”
  • Kurds have long dreamed of taking Kirkuk and its huge oil reserves. They regard the city, just outside their autonomous region, as their historical capital, and peshmerga units were already present in an uneasy balance with government forces.
  • The swift move by their highly organised security forces to seize full control demonstrates how this week’s sudden advance by ISIL has redrawn Iraq’s map – and potentially that of the entire Middle East.
  • Since Tuesday, black clad ISIL fighters who do not recognize the region’s modern borders have seized Mosul and Tikrit, home town of former dictator Saddam Hussein, as well as other towns and cities north of Baghdad.
  • The army of the Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government in Baghdad has essentially evaporated in the face of the onslaught, abandoning bases and U.S.-provided weapons.


Read a January 2014 Daily News Article on the al-Qaeda takeover of Fallujah:

Read more news reports on the situation in Iraq:

Watch 3 news reports below.

Wall Street Journal – The Foreign Bureau:

AFP/Chicago Tribune:

WSJ Live:

Update: from a June 13 news report at NYPost:
Other developments in the fast-moving conflict included:

  • President Obama said Thursday he had not ruled out any options, and sources said the United States could launch airstrikes.
  • While Washington and its NATO allies remained on the sidelines, the Iranians, who are Shiites, sent in the Revolutionary Guard to help Iraqi troops take back control of most of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, and said they would bomb rebel forces if they got within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of Baghdad.
  • A spokesman for the militants, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), vowed to take the battle to the capital. “We will march toward Baghdad because we have an account to settle there,” railed Abu Mohammed al-Adnani.
  • In Baghdad, thousands of men flooded army recruiting stations to answer Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s call to arms.
  • The fate of Iraq’s largest oil refinery in the city of Baiji remained uncertain. Concerns over supply sent crude-oil prices soaring, contributing to a 110-point drop in the Dow.

At the White House, while the president said all options were on the table, a spokesman later clarified that those options did not include boots on the ground.

“My team is working around the clock to identify how we can provide the most effective assistance to them. I don’t rule out anything,” Obama said.

Critics accused the president — who has repeatedly argued that al Qaeda and its affiliates have been decimated — of being caught off guard. “What’s the president doing, taking a nap?” asked House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the violence a “colossal failure” of Obama’s security team.

“Everybody in his national-security team, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ought to be replaced,” McCain said before a classified Senate Armed Services Committee briefing on Iraq.

The fanatics are fighting to create an Islamist emirate spanning both sides of the Iraq-Syria border — a terrorist haven that would be ruled by al Qaeda’s harsh version of Sharia law. The fighters were able to easily advance because local police and army units — trained by the US at a cost of billions of dollars — melted away at the first signs of violence.

The reason was fear, as the rebels have threatened anyone in the military with death — even posting a video on a terrorist website showing militants knocking on the door of a police major in the dead of night. When he answers, they blindfold him and then carve off his head with a knife in his own bedroom.

The UK’s Telegraph newspaper reported that 15 members of the Iraqi special forces were beheaded by insurgents in Kirkuk.

Get Free Answers

Daily “Answers” emails are provided for Daily News Articles, Tuesday’s World Events and Friday’s News Quiz.