• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
6m 10s

“By God’s will, we will be victorious”

By CBS/AP 10:29 AM June 14, 2014

Last Updated Jun 14, 2014 12:53 PM EDT

BAGHDAD – Hundreds of young Iraqi men gripped by religious and nationalistic fervor streamed into volunteer centers Saturday across Baghdad, answering a call by the country’s top Shiite cleric to join the fight against Sunni militants advancing in the north.

Dozens climbed into the back of army trucks, chanting Shiite slogans and hoisting assault rifles, pledging to battle the Sunni group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, which has launched a lightning advance across the country.

“By God’s will, we will be victorious,” said one volunteer, Ali Saleh Aziz. “We will not be stopped by the ISIL or any other terrorists.”

The massive response to the call by the Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued via his representative Friday, comes as sectarian tensions are threatening to push the country back toward civil war in the worst crisis since U.S. forces withdrew at the end of 2011.

CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward reports from Baghdad that many Iraqis are trying to flee the country as the security situation disintegrates. The departure hall at the capital city’s airport was packed Friday.

In the U.S., Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush to move from the North Arabian Sea into the Persian Gulf, which CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported Friday was expected to happen. The Bush is carrying fighter jets that could easily get to Iraq.

“The order will provide the commander in chief additional flexibility should military options be required to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq,” Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement Saturday.

A guided-missile cruiser, the USS Philippine Sea, and a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Truxtun, would accompany the carrier, Kirby said. The ships were expected to arrive in the Gulf later Saturday.

Fighters from the al Qaeda splinter group, drawing support from former Saddam Hussein-era figures and other disaffected Sunnis, have made dramatic gains in the Sunni heartland north of Baghdad after overrunning Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul on Tuesday. Soldiers and policemen have melted away in the face of the lightning advance, and thousands have fled to the self-ruled Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

“I cannot understand how all these soldiers gave up so quickly,” a man who claimed he was part of a unit that did try to fight told CBS News. “A battalion is supposed to at least resist for a few days.”

On Saturday, insurgents seized the small town of Adeim in Diyala province after Iraqi security forces pulled out, said the head of the municipal council, Mohammed Dhifan. Adeim is about 60 miles north of Baghdad. There was no official confirmation of the loss of the town.

Jawad al-Bolani, a lawmaker and former Cabinet minister close to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said a military offensive was underway Saturday to drive the insurgents from Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown north of Baghdad, although fighting in the area could not be confirmed.

AP Television News footage showed Kurdish fighters, known as peshmerga, driving out militants who had taken over an army outpost some 15 miles west of the oil city of Kirkuk. The position had earlier been abandoned by Iraqi army troops. Long coveted by the Kurds who have a self-rule region in northern Iraq, Kirkuk fell under the control of the peshmerga this week after Iraqi army forces left.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday his Shiite nation is ready to help Iraq if asked, adding that it has “no option but to confront terrorism.” Addressing a news conference, he suggested the Sunni militants in northern Iraq are linked to Iraqi politicians who lost in parliamentary elections held in April.

“We will study if there is a demand for help from Iraq. Until today, no specific request for help has been demanded. But we are ready to help within international law,” he said. “Entry of our forces (into Iraq) to carry out operations has not been raised so far. It’s unlikely that such conditions will emerge.”

Iran has built close political and economic ties with Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam’s Sunni-led regime and many influential Iraqi Shiites, including al-Maliki, have spent years in exile in the Islamic Republic.

The fast-moving rebellion has emerged as the biggest threat to Iraq’s stability since even before the Americans left.

Long-simmering Sunni-Shiite tensions boiled over after the U.S.-led invasion ousted Saddam in 2003, leading to vicious fighting between the two Muslim sects. But the bloodshed ebbed in 2008 after a U.S. surge, a revolt by moderate Sunnis against al Qaeda in Iraq and a Shiite militia cease-fire.

The latest bout of fighting, stoked by the civil war in neighboring Syria, has pushed the nation even closer to a precipice that could partition it into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish zones.

Shiite cleric and political leader Ammar al-Hakim was shown on television networks donning a camouflaged military fatigue as he spoke to volunteers from his party, although he still wore his clerical black turban that designates him as a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.

State-run television also aired a constant flow of nationalist songs, clips of soldiers marching or singing, flying aircraft, brief interviews with troops vowing to crush the militants and archival clips of the nation’s top Shiite clerics.

Extensive clips of al-Maliki’s visit on Friday to the city of Samarra, home to a much revered Shiite shrine that was bombed in 2006, also were broadcast.

The footage seemed clearly aimed at rehabilitating his reputation in the eyes of Shiites, with a dour-faced al-Maliki seen praying at the Shiite shrine – an apparent reminder of his commitment to his faith and the protection of its followers. He also declared that Samarra would be the assembly point for the march farther north to drive out the militants, another decision with a religious slant to win over Shiites.

In an address to military commanders in Samarra, he warned that army deserters could face the death penalty if they don’t report back to their units. But he insisted the crisis had a silver lining.

“This is our chance to clean and purge the army from these elements that only want to make gains from being in the army and the police,” he said. “They thought that this is the beginning of the end but, in fact, we say that this is the beginning of their end and defeat.”

Also Saturday, the Iraqi government’s counterterrorism department said the son of Saddam’s vice president, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, was killed in an air raid by the Iraqi air force in Tikrit. It said Ahmed al-Douri was killed with some 50 other Saddam loyalists and ISIS fighters on Friday. The report could not be immediately verified.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Latest Stories

  • News

    U.S. intel official confirms identity of ‘Jihadi John’

    by CBS News/Associated Press on Feb 26, 19:00

    The knife-wielding masked ISIS militant seen in a number of beheading videos and dubbed “Jihadi John” has been named as Mohammed Emwazi, a London man with a college degree, a U.S. intelligence official confirmed to CBS News Thursday. Emwazi earned his degree from the University of Westminster, the official told CBS News. Both The Washington Post and the BBC reported Thursday […]

  • News

    Balancing the budget and safety: troopers face cutbacks

    by Bonney Bowman on Feb 26, 18:49

    It’s been just over a month since Governor Bill Walker’s State of the Budget speech, when he told Alaskans about state expenses being cut in the wake of declining oil revenues. Many agencies are already seeing cuts, but perhaps none more striking than those made to the Alaska State Troopers. Troopers department director Col. James Cockrell […]

  • Crime

    Man arrested after throwing drugs over Anchorage jail fence

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Feb 26, 17:09

    A man was arrested Wednesday after authorities reported seeing him throw a bag of suspected contraband over a fence at the Anchorage Correctional Complex. Investigators with the Alaska State Troopers Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit reported seeing 28-year-old Kevin Sathre throw something over the fence of the south side yard of the jail around noon Wednesday. […]

  • Crime

    AST: 3 nabbed in Emmonak assault that leaves man with serious injuries

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Feb 26, 15:58

    A man suffered “serious internal injuries” in an alcohol-fueled assault in the dry Western Alaska village of Emmonak, authorities say. According to an online dispatch from Alaska State Troopers, 23-year-old Doran Jennings, 21-year-old Jereith Jimmy and 23-year-old Karl Kelly had been drinking home-brew alcohol before they left the residence they were in, went next door and “assaulted […]

  • Lifestyle

    Facebook sets sights on suicide prevention with new feature

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Feb 26, 15:42

    Facebook has teamed up with Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention and the University of Washington’s School of Social Work to add a new feature to the popular social media site that is designed to prevent suicide by helping friends speak up. Starting Wednesday, Facebook users can get help for friends who post suicidal or self-harming […]

  • News

    Regulators propose permanent definition of public place

    by Associated Press on Feb 26, 13:36

    A state board wants to make permanent the emergency regulation passed this week defining public places where marijuana can’t be smoked. When voters approved legalizing recreational marijuana in November, they prohibited smoking in public but did not define what a public place was. The state’s alcohol board, which is in charge of regulating marijuana for […]

  • DayBreak

    Local realtor talks 2015 housing market trends for Southcentral

    by Daybreak Staff on Feb 26, 12:46

    Buying a home is one of the biggest purchases you will ever make, but finding a home to buy in Anchorage can be tough. There are efforts underway to address the current gridlock, in which the demand for housing has been outpacing production. According to one local realtor, there’s been a shift in what homebuyers are […]

  • Crime

    APD: Suspects sought after cab driver ‘severely’ assaulted

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Feb 26, 12:01

    Anchorage police are calling on the public for help identifying three suspects who allegedly beat up a cab driver in the fall, fracturing his face. On Oct. 4, a cab driver took three occupants to multiple locations around town before dropping them off around 4:30 a.m. near Fifth Avenue and E Street, according to a […]