Middle East

Iraq conflict: BBC reports and analysis from the region

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Media captionThe BBC's Paul Wood met refugees at a transit camp in Irbil

Islamist militants have widened their control in Iraq, forcing an estimated 800,000 people to flee their homes. Here is a round-up of the latest reports from BBC correspondents and editors covering the crisis.

'People are frightened': By Feras Kilani, BBC News, Baghdad

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Volunteers have joined the Iraqi army to fight the insurgents

Fear is the thing that you feel the most as you walk through Baghdad's streets.

I've just returned from a trip in the city and people are frightened, especially because of the news from Diyala province.

There, ISIS militias have taken over more towns and are moving towards Baqubah, which is only 60km (37 miles) away from Baghdad.

People here are buying supplies and staying in front of their television sets, watching the news.

They're also remembering what happened during the civil war of 2006-2008.

They are very scared that this will happen again and are preparing for the worst.

Many Iraqis no longer trust their national army after soldiers retreated from the ISIS advance.

Some have even called for people to instead join militias such as Muqtada al-Sadr's army in order to defend cities and holy sites.

It's certainly not the same Baghdad as it has been in the last few years.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Islamist militants have seized several Iraqi towns

An Islamist emirate? By Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East editor

If ISIS can hold Mosul and consolidate its presence there, it will have taken a giant step towards its goal of creating an Islamist emirate that straddles Iraq and Syria.

It would be the most significant act by a jihadist group since al-Qaeda attacked the US on 11 September 2001. It could also lead to other changes to the borders Britain and France imposed on the Middle East a century ago, starting with the break-up of Iraq on sectarian lines.

The success of ISIS can only make the turmoil in the Middle East worse. ISIS is an ultra-extremist Sunni Muslim group. Its success will deepen the sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shias that is already the most dangerous fault line in the Middle East.

Iran, a majority Shia Muslim country, shares a border with Iraq. It has a direct line to Iraq's Shia Muslim Prime Minister, Nouri Maliki, and close links with some Iraqi Shia militias. The Iranians could direct their proxies, and even their own special forces units, at ISIS.

That might end up further inflaming the anger of Iraqi Sunnis, who have already helped the advance of ISIS through Iraq.

US air strikes, if they happen, might do the same thing. Once again in the Middle East, the Americans have limited options. Their invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 helped create and strengthen jihadist groups.

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Media captionWaves of people seek refuge in the Kurdish region, as Rami Ruhayem reports

Shifting conflict? By Rami Ruhayem, BBC News, Irbil

The mass displacement of people from Mosul seen earlier this week has now slowed to a trickle. There are still some people leaving the city and coming into Irbil and other parts of the Kurdish autonomous region.

But we've talked to even more people who feel that it is now safe enough to go back to the city. We don't have specific numbers but it's probably in the hundreds.

Barring a large Iraqi army offensive on the town, the main focus of the battle has now shifted elsewhere.

ISIS has opened up many new fronts, including near the border with Iran. They are also continuing to fight in the vast desert province of Anbar, which has long been their stronghold.

Anbar borders Syria, where ISIS is also active. As a result, we might see new developments in more central parts of the country.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Kurdish security forces are coming into direct proximity with the militants

A historic reunification? By Jim Muir, BBC News, Irbil

As Iraq descends deeper into chaos and the fires burn closer to Baghdad, the Kurds in the north have quietly taken advantage of the tumult to expand and tighten their control in the oil-rich Kirkuk province, long the object of their dreams and aspirations.

"Part of the motivation was to avert a humanitarian disaster," said a senior source in Irbil.

But there's clearly more to it than that.

The Kurdish media have been hailing the step as a historic reunification of Kurdish lands.

With the rest of Iraq apparently disintegrating along sectarian lines, and the central government in Baghdad in disarray, it will clearly be a long time before an Iraqi authority can challenge the Kurds' absorption of what they have long seen as the rightful jewel in their crown.

But the move is not without risks.

It brings Kurdish forces into direct proximity with the militants who have taken over in Mosul and other adjacent areas.

In recent years, Kirkuk has already seen many suicide and other bomb attacks attributed to Sunni radicals, which are very rare inside the Kurdistan Regional Government autonomous area itself.

Read more from Jim Muir here

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