Middle East

Twitter Q&A: John Simpson answers your Iraq crisis questions

A series of attacks in Iraq have seen Sunni militants and jihadists from ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] seize control of major cities, oil fields and border crossings in the north of the country.

BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson, currently in Baghdad, has been answering your questions in a Twitter Q&A which took place on Thursday, 19 June, at 08:30 GMT (09:30 BST), via the @BBC_HaveYourSay Twitter account.

This is an edited version:

John tweets: Good Morning from Baghdad.

He adds: Twitter is blocked in #Iraq. I'm on the phone to colleagues in London to ensure answers are relayed for #AskBBCSimpson

@PR_president: Why can't we block #ISIS escape route, into Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia also infiltrate.

John answers: Irrelevant. ISIS not escaping, it's attacking. Only route that counts is to Syria - unblockable

@VRfiedIranNews: An Iraqi official said 80% of 2nd battalion were Kurds and they left there possibly before ISIS attacked north. True?

John answers: Exaggerated, but partly true. This old history now. Kurds fought well afterwards

@alinqot: Wouldn't Iran & Iraq have been better off if the UK & US hadn't overthrown governments in 1950s & 1970s?

John answers: This is ancient history. We have to live in the present - which is result of 2003 Iraq invasion, plus 2011 US withdrawal

@HaiderSonneteer: Are we staring into the abyss in Iraq?

John answers: Yes I'm afraid so. Not inevitable but deeply worrying

@Derin_2023: Iraq will be divided into different states. What do you think about that?

John answers: Quite possible, even likely, but likely to bring genocide and huge turmoil. Best avoided

@diuk37: How can UN stop US & NATO interference in Iraq?

John answers This is not a question, it's a political statement

@AudelShirin: In Syria, Syrians lived harmoniously. In Iraq it's genocide. Is that justification enough to attack Isis?

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionA representative for the highest Shia authority in Iraq spoke exclusively to the BBC's John Simpson and warned "This danger could spread"

John answers Syrians harmonious because lived under fierce dictatorship. Democracy in Iraq hasn't found way of stopping genocide

Rob Taylor from Milton Keynes emails: Are we witnessing start of break up of Iraq?

John answers: Think you're right. Break-up will be disaster. But Iran already major regional power, will get stronger

Joseph Meager from Preston, UK, emails: We've heard nothing of Christians in Iraq. How have they survived, or have they fled since ISIS attack?

John answers: Little news of Christians in Mosul. ISIS regard them as enemies, but crucifixions not of Christians

Oliver from Sevenoaks, UK, emails: Can there be a happy ending?

John answers No happy endings in politics. Least dangerous would probably be if Iraq sticks together as country

Rachel Bee from Bristol, UK emails: Is it true US & UK failed to provide promised firepower to Iraqi gov't on leaving?

John answers: Not really, though both US & UK keen to get out. Iraq has plenty of fire power - ISIS still winning

Roge Heath from Reedville, US, emails: How did Maliki start his political ascendancy? Wasn't he initially dismissed as a light weight?

John answers: Maliki a career émigré politician, clever, discreet, uncharismatic, easily underestimated

Jordi Delcor from Barcelona emails: Will Iraq be split in three parts with the oil wells controlled by USA & allies?

John answers: No. May split, but oil wd be divided between three. Sunni & Shia parts not friendly to West

Mike Harris from London emails: What options are open to the West? Can you suggest any reasonable action that won't worsen the crisis?

John answers: Washing hands of Iraq not an option. Entire region regards ISIS as major threat. Iraqi govt can't cope alone

Ilina Georgieva in London emails: What does Iraq crisis mean for Syria? Will Western govts change attitude to Assad who is fighting ISIS?

John answers: ISIS is forcing big strategic re-think for West, however distasteful. New links with Iran already. Perhaps Assad to come

@Curticus1: Would Western military intervention escalate or control the violence?

John answers: Unclear, but without bombing ISIS likely to win. Hard for U.S not to do it

@s_witter: Are Iraqi Sunni citizens safe in Iraq's northern region. Would ISIS hurt them? Can these citizens leave the country?

John answers: ISIS an extreme Sunni movement, so not an immediate threat to Sunni Iraqis. Possible to leave country but difficult

@Knight_Assoc: Is there feeling on the ground of Kurd independence & Sunni/Shia split as an outcome? Will new lines be drawn on the map?

John answers: Yes this seems most likely outcome at present. But brings huge dangers

@SamInWhitley: Is defeating ISIS militarily the only way to stop them creating an extremist state?

John answers: Hard to think of an alternative

@dblplusgoodful: What measures, if any, are being used to protect minorities, especially non-Islamic minority peoples? #Iraq

John answers: Hard in incipient civil war to protect anyone. That's why many minorities leaving

@anilkarkie: Who are the strategic leaders of #ISIS and have they ever met with members of US intelligence agencies?

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Media captionIn 90 seconds: Who are ISIS?

John answers: Only known strategic leader is al-Baghdadi. Caught, interrogated & finally released by U.S. Why wd ISIS want to meet CIA?

@yoruklsik: What is ISIS trying to achieve by holding Turkish diplomats and trucks drivers as hostages?

John answers: Isis sees Turks as pro-Western, enemies, and useful for potential exchanges

John Gammon from Brighton, UK, emails: Will Sunni and Shia ever reconcile?

John answers: Sunni and Shia often co-exist peacefully here. Need to create peaceful circumstances in which this will continue

@robmcgibbon: How are you explaining to your son as to where you are and the dangers? Can't be easy for him, or you?

John answers: My son (8) already knows someone must report what's happening. Separation hard, but he's quite proud of ancient father! #AskBBCSimpson

For more correspondent Q&As follow BBC Have Your Say on Twitter

Twitter Q&A produced by Sitala Peek

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