Iraq crisis: US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in stricken region as Isis insurgents seize control of western border

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) took four towns and three border crossings - to Syria and Jordan - as threat of civil war becomes greater

Sunni insurgents have seized control of Iraq’s western border, officials have confirmd, as the army struggles to overcome a strengthening assault by Isis militants.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) - an al-Qa’ida splinter group – is seeking to create a caliphate Islamic state astride the north-west of Iraq and eastern Syria.

Jihadist fighters successfully captured four towns and three border crossings in the latest battering on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s defence.

The latest developments continue to beleaguer western leaders, with US Secretary of State John Kerry saying that an Islamic state would be a “threat not only to Iraq, but to the entire region.”

Mr Kerry, who is due to meet with Prime Minister al-Maliki as well as top Sunni and Kurdish leaders today, has now arrived in the country.

US officials say that he will not call for al-Maliki to step down, but will instead try to foster better relations between the Shiite-led government and Iraq's Sunni minority.

 

The border crossings seized at the weekend include one to Jordan and two to Syria, giving the Islamist group a strategic advantage in the supply to and exchange of weaponry with fighters battling al-Assad’s regime in Syria.

The four Iraqi towns of Qaim, Rawah, Anah and Rutba, all of which are in the Sunni-dominated western province of Anbar, were taken on Friday and Saturday.

John Kerry has arrived in Iraq John Kerry has arrived in Iraq “Up until now, we don't have a plan to retake any territory we lost. We are working on one still,” an Iraqi official told the Associated Press.

“Their objective is Baghdad, where we are working frantically to bolster our defences. I will be honest with you, even that is not up to the level of what is needed. Morale is low.”

Iran’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, yesterday refuted the notion that the violence was sectarian and blasted the idea of US intervention, which he is strongly against.

“The US aims to bring its own blind followers to power since the US is not happy about the current government in Iraq,” he is reported as saying.

ISIS’s latest gains also come as the UK insists it will not provide boots on the ground, but will assist the US through other means, for example by providing spare parts for artillery.

Britain’s former Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, also called for the tightening of surveillance powers in light of jihadist fighters returning home to the UK.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he said: “You’ve got people at the moment in the light of Snowden saying that the state has too many powers and that the powers of the state need to restrict the powers they have.

“We better start to reconsider that.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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