BAGHDAD, Iraq --The Iraqi military ran out of Hellfire missiles six days ago, and though the U.S. is rushing more missiles into the country, Iraq has only two modified Cessna aircraft to launch them in their battle against the radical Islamic militia ISIS.
ISIS has damaged 28 tanks and shot down three helicopters, a significant percentage of the government force, and the militia killed an entire Iraqi Security Force brigade in the last couple of days at the border with Syria, which ISIS now controls.
The losses have left the Iraqi military with no offensive capability, and no real air force.
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With the brigade at the border at Al Qaim wiped out, ISIS now controls the territory from Rubiya to Al Qaim. The tribes in Al Qaim tried to fight them, but ISIS unleashed a major artillery barrage, then a major assault, and they could not hold the back.
Taking Al Qaim opens up the entire Euphrates Valley to the insurgents, and ISIS has a safe haven across the border in Syria, which makes air strikes difficult.
Threat of a massive drive into Baghdad has receded somewhat, but fear remains that the radical militia will try big attacks for propaganda victories, or that its forces might take small neighborhoods and publicize its victories on YouTube in an attempt to scare the Shia into overreacting with the militias.
Until now, many moderate Sunnis have not rallied to the ISIS side, but provoking violent retaliation by Shiite militias in Baghdad against any Sunnis could draw more support to the radicals.
The Maliki government has yet to mount a counteroffensive to roll back the ISIS blitzkrieg, although thousands of Shiite Iraqis have rallied to the government's side to defend against ISIS, which is composed of Sunni Muslims.
Maliki's regime suffered another blow Friday when Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiites, called for a new, "effective" government.
"It is necessary for the winning political blocs to start a dialogue that yields an effective government that enjoys broad national support, avoids past mistakes and opens new horizons toward a better future for all Iraqis," al-Sisanti said.
President Obama has also criticized the Maliki government for alienating the country's Sunni population.
Obama has thus far declined to launch U.S. bombers against ISIS, but said Thursday he will deploy as many as 300 U.S. special forces soldiers to help train and advise Iraqis in their battle with ISIS and the Sunni tribes that have joined them.