The forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant ( الدولة الاسلامية في العراق والشام) continued a rapid advance south of Mosul today seizing the city of Tikrit (95 miles north of Baghdad) and large parts of the city of Baiji (120 miles north of Baghdad). Heavy fighting was also reported in the Shi’ite holy city of Samarra (about 60 miles north of Baghdad). This onslaught means that the ISIL has effectively cut off the highway that runs north of Baghdad through Tikrit, Samarra, and Baiji to Mosul. Any Iraqi reinforcements sent by the central government in Baghdad will have to fight their way through these cities to wrest Mosul out of the Islamic state’s control. The only immediated threat to the city at present is the Kurdish peshmerga militia dug in on the east bank of the Tigris River. Whether the Kurds will seek to intervene on Baghdad’s behalf is doubtful but the possibility shouldn’t be entirely dismissed since the rapid ISIL advance may begin to pose a threat to the stability of the Kurdish region.
It is difficult to imagine the ISIL launching a sustained assault on Baghdad (an urban metropolis of many millions) simply due to their lack of numbers, but this group has proven themselves to be determined, resourceful, audacious, and extremely cunning so I really wouldn’t put anything past them. And it should be noted that the rapid collapse of Iraqi forces in Mosul and the surrounding region allowed a mass of armored vehicles and even some military helicopters to fall into the hands of ISIL which will aid them greatly in any push on Baghdad.
The world is changing. I do not know what the end result of this chaos in Iraq will be. ISIL could advance too far too fast and find themselves vulnerable to counterattack (they seem to have a long exposed flank to the east of Highway 1), but maybe they won’t. And the longer they can sustain these gains the harder it will be to dislodge them. And since their ideology to which they are ruthlessly committed is to destroy the borders of the Middle East drawn up by the European powers after the First World War and to replace it with a unified Islamic state this will, if accomplished, create a whole new world.
In any case pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome and for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.