Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered his air force for the first time to back Kurdish forces against Islamic State terrorists after the rebels made another dramatic push through the north, state television reported on Monday.
"The general commander of the armed forces has ordered the air force command to provide backup for the Kurdish peshmerga forces against the terrorist gangs of the Islamic State," state television quoted Maliki's military spokesman Qassim Atta as saying, according to Reuters.
Kurdish peshmerga fighters, who cut their teeth fighting Saddam Hussein's troops, were regarded as one of the few forces capable of standing up to the terrorists who faced almost no opposition from Maliki's U.S.-trained army during their lightning advance through the north in June.
Then on Sunday the Islamic State inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Kurds with a rapid advance through three towns to reach the Mosul Dam, acquiring a fifth oil field to fund its operations along the way.
State television and witnesses said that the Islamic State had seized Iraq's biggest dam. Kurdish peshmerga officials said they have pushed militants from the dam area and were in control of it. This could not be immediately confirmed.
Despite predictions from Kurdish commanders that their forces would launch a successful counter-offensive, one senior Kurdish official urged the United States to step in and provide weapons "for the sake of fighting terrorism".
Maliki has been at odds with the Kurds over budgets, oil and land, and tensions deepened after the Islamic State seized control of large swathes of land in the north and west of OPEC member Iraq.
In July, the Kurdish political bloc ended all participation in Iraq's national government in protest over Maliki's accusation that Kurds were allowing terrorists to stay in Arbil, the capital of their semi-autonomous region known as Kurdistan.
Maliki seems to have put aside his hostility with the Kurds to try to prevent the Islamic State, which has threatened to march on Baghdad, from making further gains.
Saudis opposed to third term for Maliki
Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is said to have sent a strongly worded letter to the United States categorically refusing the return of Maliki for a third term as Iraq’s prime minister.
According a source, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal sent the letter to his U.S. counterpart John Kerry during their last meeting in Paris to discuss the Iraqi issue.
The meeting was attended by UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed and his Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh.
In the letter, Prince Al-Faisal told Kerry that Saudi Arabia categorically refuses the return or the survival of or the return of Al-Maliki's rule in Iraq.
According to the source, the Saudi minister was the only person to comment during the meeting while his companions the foreign ministers of the UAE and Jordan did not remark on the issue.
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