Iraqi security forces fire artillery during clashes with
ISIL forces on the outskirts of the town of Udaim in Diyala
Iran's supreme leader has accused the United States of
trying to retake control of Iraq by exploiting sectarian
rivalries, as Sunni insurgents drove toward Baghdad from new
strongholds along the Syrian border.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's condemnation of US action came three
days after President Barack Obama offered to send 300
military advisers to help the Iraqi government. Khamenei may
want to block any US choice of a new prime minister after
grumbling in Washington about Shi'ite premier Nuri al-Maliki.
The supreme leader did not mention the Iranian president's
recent suggestion of cooperation with Shi'ite Tehran's old US
adversary in defence of their mutual ally in Baghdad.
On Sunday, militants overran a second frontier post on the
Syrian border, extending two weeks of swift territorial gains
as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) pursues
the goal of its own power base, a "caliphate" straddling both
countries that has raised alarm across the Middle East and in
"We are strongly opposed to US and other intervention in
Iraq," IRNA news agency quoted Khamenei as saying. "We don't
approve of it as we believe the Iraqi government, nation and
religious authorities are capable of ending the sedition."
Some Iraqi observers interpreted his remarks as a warning not
to try to pick its own replacement for Maliki, whom many in
the West and Iraq hold responsible for the crisis. In eight
years in power, he has alienated many in the Sunni minority
that dominated the country under ousted dictator Saddam
Khamenei has not made clear how far Iran itself will back
Maliki to hold on to his job once parliament reconvenes
following an election in which Maliki's bloc won the most
Speaking in Cairo, Secretary of State John Kerry said the
United States wanted Iraqis to find a leadership that would
represent all the country's communities - though he echoed
Obama in saying it would not pick or choose those leaders:
"The United States would like the Iraqi people to find
leadership that is prepared to represent all of the people of
Iraq, that is prepared to be inclusive and share power,"
The Iranian and the US governments had seemed open to
collaboration against ISIL, which is also fighting the
Iranian-backed president of Syria, whom Washington wants to
"American authorities are trying to portray this as a
sectarian war, but what is happening in Iraq is not a war
between Shi'ites and Sunnis," said Khamenei, who has the last
word in the Islamic Republic's Shi'ite clerical
Accusing Washington of using Sunni Islamists and loyalists of
Saddam's Baath party, he added: "The US is seeking an Iraq
under its hegemony and ruled by its stooges." During Iran's
long war with Saddam in the 1980s, Iraq enjoyed quiet US
Tehran and Washington have been shocked by the lightning
offensive, spearheaded by ISIL but also involving Sunni
tribes and Saddam loyalists. It has seen swathes of northern
and western Iraq fall, including the major city of Mosul on
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticised oil-rich Sunni
Gulf states that he said were funding "terrorists" - a
reference to the likes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar which have
backed Sunni rebels against Syria's Iranian-backed leader
"We emphatically tell those Islamic states and all others
funding terrorists with their petrodollars that these
terrorist savages you have set on other people's lives will
come to haunt you," IRNA quoted Rouhani as saying on Sunday.
ISIL thrust east from a newly captured Iraqi-Syrian border
post on Sunday, taking three towns in Iraq's western Anbar
province after seizing the frontier crossing near the town of
Qaim on Saturday, witnesses and security sources said.
They seized a second, al-Waleed, on Sunday.
The gains have helped ISIL secure supply lines to Syria,
where it has exploited the chaos of the uprising against
Assad to seize territory. It is considered the most powerful
force among armed groups who seized Falluja, just west of
Baghdad, and took parts of Anbar's capital Ramadi at the
start of the year.
The fall of Qaim represented another step towards the
realisation of ISIL's military goals, erasing a frontier
drawn by colonial powers carving up the Ottoman empire a
ISIL's gains on Sunday included the towns of Rawa and Ana
along the Euphrates river east of Qaim, as well as the town
of Rutba further south on the main highway from Jordan to
Baghdad. Jordan said traffic had stopped arriving from Iraq.
An Iraqi military intelligence official said Iraqi troops had
withdrawn from Rawa and Ana after ISIL militants attacked the
settlements late on Saturday. "Troops withdrew from Rawa, Ana
and Rutba this morning and ISIL moved quickly to completely
control these towns," the official said.
"They took Ana and Rawa this morning without a fight."
Military spokesman Major-General Qassim al-Moussawi said the
withdrawal from the towns was intended to ensure "command and
control" and to allow troops to regroup and retake the areas.
The towns are on a strategic supply route between ISIL's
positions in northwestern Iraq and eastern Syria, where the
group has taken a string of towns and strategic positions
from rival Sunni forces fighting Assad over the past few
The last major Syrian town not in ISIL's hands in the region,
the border town of Albukamal, is controlled by the Nusra
Front, al Qaeda's branch in Syria which has clashed with
A monitoring group said on Sunday that ISIL fighters in
northern Syria had for the first time been seen using US-made
Humvee all-terrain vehicles seized from the Iraqi army.
Disowned by al Qaeda in February after defying the global
leadership to pursue its own goals in Syria, ISIL has pushed
south down the Tigris valley since capturing Mosul with
barely a fight, occupying towns and taking large amounts of
weaponry from the collapsing, US-trained Iraqi army.
Overnight, ISIL fighters attacked the town of al-Alam, north
of Tikrit, according to witnesses and police in the town. The
attackers were repelled by security forces and tribal
fighters, they said, adding that two ISIL fighters had been
State television reported that "anti-terrorism forces" in
coordination with the air force had killed 40 ISIL members
and destroyed five vehicles in Tikrit, Saddam's home town.
There was a lull in fighting at Iraq's largest refinery,
Baiji, near Tikrit, on Sunday. The site had been a
battlefield since Wednesday as Sunni fighters launched an
assault on the plant. Militants entered the large compound
but were repelled by Iraqi military units. The fighters now
surround the compound.
A black column of smoke rose from the site Sunday. Refinery
officials said it was caused by a controlled burning of
At least 17 soldiers and volunteers were killed in overnight
clashes with ISIL militants in the Saied Ghareeb area near
Dujail, 50 km (30 miles) north of Baghdad, army and medical
sources said. Near the city of Ramadi, west of the capital, a
suicide bomber and a car bomb killed six people at a funeral
for an army officer killed the previous day.
Relations between diverse Sunni fighting groups have not been
entirely smooth. On Sunday morning, clashes raged for a third
day between ISIL and Sunni tribes backed by the Naqshbandi
Army, a group led by former army officers and Baathists,
around Hawija, local security sources and tribal leaders
More than 10 people were killed in clashes in the area,
southwest of Kirkuk, the sources said. On Friday, ISIL and
Naqshbandi fighters began fighting each other in Hawija.
Iraqi and Western officials have argued that ISIL and other
Sunni factions may turn on each other after capturing
The fighting has threatened to tear the country apart for
good, reducing Iraq to separate Sunni, Shi'ite and ethnic
Kurdish regions. It has highlighted divisions among regional
powers, notably between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Iraq's Kurds have meanwhile expanded their territory beyond
their autonomous region in the northeast, notably taking over
the long-prized oil city of Kirkuk. Two Kurdish militiamen
were killed by a roadside bomb there on Sunday, a police
The government has mobilised Shi'ite militias and other
volunteers to fight on the frontlines and defend the capital
- thousands of fighters in military fatigues marched in a
Shi'ite slum of the capital Baghdad on Saturday.