ISIS (the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant) has taken control of Ninevah province which includes Mosul. Confirmed by Iraqi top official. Happened in a very short period (sounds like three days). Iraqi army resistance collapsed pretty rapidly. Lots of refugees fleeing Ninevah, etc.,
Now… what’s important?
ISIS Effectively controls a country
I found a map that purports to show ISIS territory (before new events):
Yellow: Syria, Iraq
Ninevah is the Iraqi province that controls most of the “Syrian” border northeast of the red. It’s more clearly shown in link in third section
The combined area (existing red plus Ninevah) seems comparable in size to Jordan. And it straddles about half of the old Iraq/Syria border.
ISIS is (of course) a former Al Quieda affiliate. If memory serves, they’ve been the perpetrators of some of the worst crimes by any of the anti-government forces in the Syrian Civil War. Wikpedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_State_of_Iraq_and_the_Levant.
There was already, effectively, an independent Kurdish state (The Kurdistan “regional” government) in “Iraq” north and east of ISIS territory. They have their own army, the iraq flag doesn’t fly on their territory, etc., Seemingly Independent in all but explicit name. Wikipedia has a map of their territory (that also happens to clearly show Ninevah) about 1/3rd way down their page on Iraqi Kurdistan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_Kurdistan I would suspect it’s going to difficult for Baghdad to keep control of significant chunks of the areas that are in dispute between Kurdistan and the Baghdad. And it’s going to be in Kurdistan’s interest to ensure that they effective control of a defensible area vis-a-vis possible conflict with ISIS.
There’s been a lot of chatter (including advocacy of it by big name think tanks) going back to at least ’06 advocating some version of Iraqi partition, soft or otherwise. It seems to be happening explicitly now. Whether any of the think tanks anticipated it would be paralleled by the partition of Syria is a whole ‘nother question.
Some thought churners vis-a-vis neighboring states
- Turkey has been building bridges with Kurdistan.
- Turkey has no love of ISIS and probably sees ISIS as a significant threat
- Iran’s reaction will be interesting to say the least. Do they support ISIS, Baghdad or pragmatic-ish-ly using both?
- Badhad is willing to strike ISIS in Syria (at least one known attack in last six months)
- Other anti-government forces in Syria have a lot of motivation to unify/consolidate (well… or die)