"Iraq's al Qaida affiliate constitutes the most violent component of the Sunni rebellion that has become a major threat to Iraqi stability in early 2014," says a Congressional Research Service report published last month. "Often cooperating with elements of the group operating in neighboring Syria, the group currently operates in both Iraq and Syria under the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or, alternately, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria."
"The group is considered an al Qaida affiliate, despite disputes with remaining senior al Qaida leaders believed mostly still in Pakistan," said CRS.
"ISIL has led the insurrection that began in December 2013 and took control of Fallujah and parts of other cities in Anbar Province, including Abu Ghraib -- a mere 10 miles from Baghdad," said CRS.
Yesterday, ISIL captured Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.
Does this al-Qaida splinter group that has risen up in Iraq pose a threat to the United States? As reported in this column in February, CIA Director John Brennan told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that al-Qaida was using camps on both sides of the Syrian-Iraq border to "develop capabilities" that could threaten this nation.
"We are concerned about the use of Syrian territory by the al Qaida organization to recruit individuals and develop the capability to be able not just to carry out attacks inside of Syria, but also to use Syria as a launching pad," said Brennan.
House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers asked him: "Do you believe that there are training camps that have been established on either side of the Iraqi or Syrian border for the purposes of training al Qaida operatives?"
"There are camps inside of both Iraq and Syria that are used by al Qaida to develop capabilities that are applicable both in the theater as well as beyond," said Brennan.
"Do you believe that that ungoverned space presents a real threat to the United States of America, via al Qaida operations, or the West?" asked Rogers.
"I do," said Brennan.
And, in this country that Bush dreamed of making a beacon of liberty and Obama declared a stable representative government, Christian churches now face an existential threat.
"Large percentages of the country's most vulnerable religious minorities, which include Chaldo-Assyrian and other Christians, Sabean Mandaeans, and Yezidis," says the 2014 Annual Report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, "have fled the country, threatening these communities' continued existence in Iraq."
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