Iraq’s Shiite Leaders Issue Call to Arms

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Iraq’s Shiite leaders called on their followers Friday to pick up weapons and join the government’s fight against Sunni militants who have closed in on the capital Baghdad, as the fears of the country’s Shiite majority mounted.

The call to arms issued during Friday prayers was another indication that the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was incapable of mustering enough official forces for its defense.

Four days after the rebels captured Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, the weakness of government forces was again evident on Friday, as battles raged for control of the country’s Sunni Muslim heartland and the corridors leading to the capital Baghdad.

Iran has already come to the aid of Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government, deploying Revolutionary Guard units to fight Sunni Islamist fighters and to guard the capital, as well as the Shiite holy cities of Karbala and Najaf.

In his Friday sermon, a representative of Iraq’s senior Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, acknowledged that government forces couldn’t on their own steam stop what he called the “terrorist” insurgency gripping the nation.

After Iraqi soldiers abandoned the towns of Saadiyah and Jalawla in fear of advancing ISIS fighters, Kurdish forces rushed in Friday to fill the vacuum left by the U.S.-armed and trained army.

The Kurdish fighters, known as Peshmerga, occupied government offices in the two towns, a Kurdish security official said. The towns are located about 70 miles north of Baghdad.

In Mosul and Tikrit, where ISIS fighters held only partial control, ISIS fighters weren’t cracking down on residents, instead encouraging them to go about their lives normally, witnesses said.

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