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Report from Iraq: U.S. Invasion in 2003 Helped Set Path for Crisis Pulling Nation Apart

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A representative of Iraq's most senior Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has called on Iraqis to take up arms against what he called "terrorists" who have overrun large swaths of the country. The call comes just hours after Islamist militants seized two more strategic towns northeast of Baghdad, moving the country closer to disintegration. Over the past few days, fighters from ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, have seized several major cities including Mosul and Tikrit. Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters have taken control of the oil city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. On Thursday, President Obama said he won't rule anything out, including a military response. The Wall Street Journal meanwhile reports Iran is sending units of its al-Quds forces into Iraq to help stop the Sunni fighters from ISIS. We go to the city of Najaf to speak to Sami Rasouli, founder and director of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams in Iraq. He left Iraq in the late 1970s and eventually moved to the United States and settled in Minneapolis, where he was a well-known restaurateur. He moved back to Iraq in 2004 after living abroad for nearly 30 years.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Iraq. A representative of Iraq's most senior Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has called on Iraqis to take up arms against what he called "terrorists" who have overrun large swaths of the country. The call comes just hours after Islamist militants seized two more strategic towns northeast of Baghdad, moving the country closer to disintegration. Over the past few days, fighters from ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, have seized several major cities including Mosul and Tikrit. According to the United Nations, hundreds of people have been killed in Mosul, many of them summarily executed. Hundreds of thousands have fled Mosul, many afraid Iraqi forces would bomb the city. Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters have taken control of the oil city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. On Thursday, President Obama said he won't rule anything out that might aid Prime Minister Maliki.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I think it's fair to say that in our consultations with the Iraqis, there will be some short-term, immediate things that need to be done militarily, and, you know, our national security team is looking at all the options. But this should be also a wake-up call for the Iraqi government. There has to be a political component to this, so that Sunni and Shia who care about building a functioning state that can bring about security and prosperity to all people inside of Iraq come together and work diligently against these extremists. And that is going to require concessions on the part of both Shia and Sunni that we haven't seen so far.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports Iran is sending units of its al-Quds forces into Iraq to help stop the Sunni fighters from ISIS. A senior Iranian official told Reuters Shiites in Iran are so alarmed by the gains of the Sunni insurgents, Tehran may be willing to cooperate with Washington in helping Baghdad fight back.       


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