29 Jun 2014

Isis declare the Islamic caliphate – hype or a new reality?

Osama bin Laden’s dream is declared a reality, as the Islamic caliphate is announced by the militants of Isis today, who also demand all other jihadi groups pledge allegiance.

Islamist militants in Iraq have declared the completion of their Islamic state, with a new caliphate under their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Discarding their previous title of Isis for the simpler IS, they claim that the new state stretches “from Aleppo to Diyala” on the outskirts of Baghdad.

They have not quite achieved that but their footprint certainly stretches across the Syria-Iraq border – with Tikrit now a key battleground with the Iraqi army.

But, as Paraic O’Brien reports, the battle for hearts and minds is going on well beyond the borders of Iraq.

Russian jets arrive in Iraq as government pushes back

Russian fighter jets are delivered to Iraq but William Hague reiterates it would be unwise for Britain to become involved in the country’s internal conflict.

Iraq has received the first batch of fighter jets ordered from Russia and expects them to be operational within four days.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said the second-hand fighters were bought from Russia and Belarus in a deal worth up to $500 million, and will use them to push back against recent gains made by Isis militants.

I do not think it would be wise to have a British military intervention in this situation Foreign Secretary William Hague

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the fighter delivery was “not an intervention by Russia”, adding that “all countries in the world have an interest in overcoming the threat” from Isis.

Cold war-era aircraft

Iraq is desperate for more airpower to fight the Isis insurgency but has become frustrated with its long wait for US F-16 fighter jets which are due to arrive in the autumn, according to the Washington Post.

The Iraqi government has resorted to buying less sophisticated second-hand aircraft such as the recently received batch of Sukhoi Su-25s from Russia and Belarus, and is even negotiating the return of decades-old planes from Iran which were flown out of Iraq by fleeing Iraqi pilots during the 1991 Gulf War.

Over 100 Iraqi fighters, including Soviet-made Sukhoi bombers and MiGs, were flown out of Iraq. Iran is reportedly receptive to the demands and is working on refurbishing an undisclosed number of jets, said the paper.

But he said Britain should not become militarily involved in the conflict, emphasising that the UK would not dictate Iraq’s leaders and that the country needed to form a strong government to deal with the crisis.

Iraq’s decision

“I do not think it would be wise to have a British military intervention in this situation, and if there is any military intervention then the United States has the best assets and capabilities to do that,” Mr Hague told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme.

“Clearly, they need a new, more inclusive government, where people have a sense of genuine partnership in government,” he added.

“It isn’t for us, and it wouldn’t help anyone in Iraq, for us to pronounce on who should be the prime minister of Iraq but there has been a failure in recent years to bring together Iraqi leaders and people out of their sectarian divisions – nobody has succeeded in doing that in Iraq over the last eight years or so.”

Mr Hague recently returned from a visit to Iraq, where he met with Nouri al-Maliki and Kurdish leaders.

“They are facing a lethal threat, a mortal threat, in the Iraqi state so I really impressed on them the need for everybody to work together and then the extent to which the rest of the world can help them will, largely, be determined by their determination to do that,” he added.


In recent days government forces have been fighting back against the Isis rebels, relying on commandos flown in by helicopter to defend the country’s biggest oil refinery at Baiji.

A successful operation to recapture territory inside Tikrit would deliver a major blow against the insurgency which has struck into the Sunni heartland north and west of Baghdad.

Iran has said it is ready to help Iraq fight the armed revolt using the same methods it deployed against opposition forces in Syria.

An Iranian general suggested Tehran is offering to take a larger role in battling Sunni militias threatening Baghdad, although Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei said on 22 june that he rejected any intervention by Washington or any other outside power against Isis.

Iran has spent billions of dollars propping up its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in what has turned into a sectarian proxy war with Sunni Arab states.