The papers: Iraq crisis and World Cup

The crisis in Iraq, its causes and what is to be done about it dominates the papers.

The Guardian leads on the story, saying President Obama and his national security chiefs were looking at any and every way they could help the Iraqi authorities take the fight to thousands of Sunni jihadists.

In their respective commentaries for the paper, John McTernan says toppling Saddam Hussein was right but the West pulled out too soon - Owen Jones argues that to those who champion more intervention, the calamity of Iraq must never be repeated.

The Times says President Obama was considering sending drones and military helicopters to Iraq as Islamist group Isis vowed to press beyond Baghdad into the Shia heartlands.

The paper says hundreds of Shia men gathered at Baghdad's main army recruiting centre after the government begged for help to fight off the Sunni militants' threatened advance on the capital.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki faced further humiliation when Kurdish forces took control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, it adds.

Former SAS commander Col Richard Williams writes in the paper that Iraq is failing as a unified state not because of Saddam Hussein's removal but because an exhausted coalition left it to its own devices and influences of its neighbours in 2011, and simply hoped for the best.

He says it is being watched with horrified interest in Kabul by Afghan citizens and politicians preparing to vote in presidential elections.

The Times says in an editorial that Iraq faces the risk of a return to full-blown civil war just three years after the withdrawal of American forces.

The lightning advance of Islamist rebels to within striking distance of Baghdad threatens to tear their country apart, it says.

The Daily Telegraph says a growing sense of panic was gripping Iraq as the al-Qaeda uprising in the country's north led to US contractors being evacuated from the region and European countries ordering their citizens to leave Baghdad.

Gen Jonathan Shaw, former commander of British forces in Basra, writes in the Telegraph that the disintegration of the Iraqi army in the face of the Isis advance should have taken no-one by surprise.

The Iraqi army lacks the historical and cultural foundations that create selfless loyalty and sustain fighting spirit, he says.

A Telegraph editorial says the Iraq conflict has entered a new, deadly phase. As Obama responds to Baghdad's appeals for support, the situation is dangerously uncertain.

The Isis group is undoubtedly frightening, it adds, but many in the West will still be urging caution.

Patrick Cockburn, reporting on the front page of the Independent, says Iraq "is breaking up".

A commentary by former UK ambassador to Syria, Andrew Green, in the Daily Mail says the news from Iraq finally disposes of the case for Western military intervention.

The Daily Mirror's leader says the chaos and destruction in Iraq should be a matter of shame for Tony Blair and George W Bush.

A country which has already endured appalling suffering in the 11 years since the allied invasion is now being torn apart by civil war, it adds.

Opening moves

A picture of singer Jennifer Lopez performing at the World Cup opening ceremony appears in just about every paper, as the football festival gets under way in Brazil.

The Sun says Brazil kicked off its shoes, as the world's biggest party burst into life.

But the paper's TV critic Ally Ross is not so impressed. "The greatest show on Earth?" he asks. "That opening ceremony was like sports day at an inner-city school."

The Mirror has the headline "Beautiful game on!".

"The 2014 World Cup kicked off in style as Jennifer Lopez starred in the spectacular opening ceremony in Sao Paulo," the paper says.

Image copyright AP

But the Telegraph says the World Cup got off to a faltering start when poor sound quality left many television viewers unable to enjoy the ceremony.

The Guardian's Hadley Freeman writes that anyone who tuned in to the World Cup's opening ceremony hoping to learn precisely what a World Cup opening ceremony is for would have come away slightly disappointed.

The Independent's front page carries images of a less pleasant side to the event with riot police clashing with protesters in Sao Paulo.

The Times says England fans can comfort themselves that there is one aspect of the World Cup where they are the best in the world - being totally miserable about their team's chances.

According to a survey, the paper says, England supporters are the most downcast in the world relative to the quality of their national team.

Home loans

There is much speculation that Bank of England Governor Mark Carney could raise interest rates sooner than expected.

"In his first hawkish comments since becoming governor almost a year ago," says the Financial Times, "the governor's Mansion House speech will heighten expectations that the Bank will be the first major central bank to raise interest rates since the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis."

The Times calls it "his strongest hint yet that policymakers may have to respond to the recovery far earlier than than expected".

The Telegraph says interest rates could begin to rise later this year "in a move that will provide some long-awaited relief to savers but plunge many borrowers into difficulty".

The Mail says Mr Carney tried to reassure anxious homeowners by making clear that interest rate rises will be gradual and limited when they do begin.

Image copyright PA

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that the chancellor is to give the Bank "sweeping new powers" to control the size of mortgages amid fears that rapidly rising house prices risk becoming a bubble that would threaten economic recovery.

The paper welcomes the move in an editorial.

"Tackling the overheating housing market is to be applauded, given the rapid rise in prices in London and elsewhere in the south-east of England. The IMF has warned that it is a major threat to stability and to the progress of the economy out of recession," it says.

"Acting on that without the clunking fist of across-the-board interest rate rises would be admirably surgical, since this way the residents of Kingston upon Hull are not punished for the spendthrift house buying of Kingston upon Thames."

Holiday mood

The row over delays at the Passport Office rumbles on - the Times says Home Secretary Theresa May made a statement to the Commons "in an attempt to deal with growing anger over the crisis".

The Telegraph says there was confusion after Mrs May promised that people with an urgent need to travel will get special help to renew their passports - "but refused to say who would qualify".

In its leader, the Telegraph says Mrs May announced a series of measures "to avert what was beginning to look like a full-scale mess".

It commends her for conceding that there is a problem and trying to do something about it, with so many people facing disruption to their summer holidays.

Guardian sketch writer Esther Addley says Mrs May has lost her passport to the Conservative leadership.

"A glorious day in London W1, and Hon Members' thoughts were turning to holidays, perhaps none more eagerly than Theresa May," she writes.

"Is it really just over a week since Basher May surged past Boris Johnson to become the Tories' latest leadership crush, after giving the Police Federation a thorough truncheoning?

"Since then she's been stripped of her closest adviser following her run-in with Michael Gove, and embarrassed by the PM's backing of water cannon before she has decided whether to allow them.

"Now the Passport Office is in meltdown. Hello? Is that Thomas Cook?"