What We Know About Iraq Right Now

PHOTO: This image posted on a militant website on Saturday, June 14, 2014, appears to show militants from the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) leading captured Iraqi soldiers wearing plain clothes to an open field.
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Iraq Is Beginning to Fight Back Against Militant Group ISIS

  • After days of inaction, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense began fighting back against the militant group ISIS this weekend.
  • Iraq conducted aerial strikes on targeted locations along the road that runs between Mosul and Baghdad in an attempt to stop ISIS from taking Baghdad. The military posted footage of the strikes on its Ministry of Defense website and said it had battled back ISIS forces along the road to Mosul.
  • Iraqi news websites reported that the head of ISIS, Abu Bakir Baghdadi, was injured in an airstrike. Baghdadi is one of the U.S. Most Wanted Criminals, with a bounty of $10 million.

  • Hundreds of men flocked to recruitment drives in Baghdad this weekend, encouraged by Iraq's top Shiite cleric and eager to join security forces to fight the Islamic militants who have captured large swaths of territory north of the capital.
  • PHOTO: Volunteers, who have joined the Iraqi Army to fight against the predominantly Sunni militants who have taken over Mosul and other Northern provinces, travel in army trucks in Baghdad June 14, 2014.
    Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters
    PHOTO: Volunteers, who have joined the Iraqi Army to fight against the predominantly Sunni militants who have taken over Mosul and other Northern provinces, travel in army trucks in Baghdad June 14, 2014.

Extremist Group Called ISIS Took Over Multiple Cities in Iraq

  • Background: When the U.S. left Iraq, it was a country with a democratically elected government and a U.S.-trained Army. But after the U.S. chased out al Qaeda, remnants of the group reformed into a group called ISIS, and the democratically elected leader, a Shiite, treated minority Sunnis and Kurds very poorly. ISIS gained the support of the Sunnis.
  • The group's initials stand for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria; its goal is to create one unified Islamic state -- specifically, a Sunni one. (This is important; we'll come back to it).
  • Last week, ISIS launched attacks on cities in Western Iraq including Mosul and Tikrit. They faced little or no resistance from the Iraqi Army that the U.S. helped arm and train. Many residents helped ISIS in the takeovers. They declared their intention to take over Baghdad.
  • Today, images released on social media and purportedly distributed by ISIS show what they say are executions of Iraqi soldiers they have captured. The images are very graphic and show many Iraqi soldiers at the hands of ISIS.

The U.S. Says It Will Not Send Troops to Help Iraq

  • President Barack Obama said, "We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq. Ultimately it's up to the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to solve their problems."
  • Still, the U.S. has sent the USS George H. W. Bush and two other Navy ships to the Persian Gulf "should military options be required to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq," the Pentagon said Saturday.
  • PHOTO: Iraqi civilians volunteering to fight a militant offensive gather themselves together among members of security forces on June 15, 2014, in the southern port city of Basra before going to Iraqi second city Mosul.
    AFP/Getty Images
    PHOTO: Iraqi civilians volunteering to fight a militant offensive gather themselves together among members of security forces on June 15, 2014, in the southern port city of Basra before going to Iraqi second city Mosul.

The Iraq Conflict and the Divisions Among Sunni, Shiite, and Kurds

  • There are three main groups in Iraq: Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and Sunni Kurds. Sunni and Shiite are different sects of Islam, a religion. Kurd is an ethnic group.
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