The situation in Iraq is going from bad to worse at an alarming rate, with two key provincial capitals falling in as many days. Yesterday, it was the oil rich northern city of Mosul, and today the al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) fighters have seized Tikrit, capital of Salaheddin Province.
Tikrit itself isn’t of huge importance, but lies south of Mosul along Highway One, which links the city to the capital of Baghdad, and links them up with other territory they’ve contested in and around Salaheddin.
They’re not stopping there, either, as other AQI forces have moved into the Kirkuk Province with an eye on taking that northern city. The loss of Kirkuk would effectively split Iraqi Kurdistan away from the remaining possessions of the central government, with only a small corridor near Sulaymaniyeh remaining.
AQI is making the most of their capture of Mosul as well, looting the Central Bank today and seizing an estimated $429 million in cash, as well as a large quantity of gold bullion, making it likely the richest terrorist group on the planet.
They also attacked the Turkish consulate in Mosul, kidnapping the consular mission head and dozens of other staff. Mosul civilians have been fleeing, but withe the loss of Tikrit they’re mostly headed east, into Kurdistan.
Though Iraqi officials remained confident they would retake Mosul in time, they said the same thing about Fallujah in January and don’t seem to have put a dent in AQI’s control of it or the surrounding area. Ultimately, AQI seems to have momentum in both Syria and Iraq and is carving out a nation of its own, one which will be large, oil-rich, and extremely belligerent.