Islamic state plan ‘threat to entire region’ warns Iraq

An extremist group’s declaration of an Islamic state in territory it has seized in Iraq and Syria is a threat to the entire region, Iraq’s prime minister has warned.

Nouri al-Maliki said the announcement this week by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) that it has unilaterally established a caliphate “is a message to all the states in the region that you are inside the red circle now”.

He said in his weekly address that “no one in Iraq or any neighbouring country will be safe from these plans”.

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The Sunni extremist group has over-run huge areas of northern and western Iraq in recent weeks, linking up with territory already under its control in Syria.

Isis declared its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of its new self-styled state governed by Sharia law and demanded that all Muslims pledge allegiance.

The blitz across Iraq appears to have halted, at least for now, as it reaches Shiite-majority areas, where resistance is tougher, and as it consolidates its control of territory already in hand.

With its recent gains, Isis now controls an area that stretches from northern Syria to the outskirts of Baghdad in central Iraq. That has sent tremors across the region, particularly in the capitals of Iraq’s neighbours.

It poses a dilemma for the West which fears being dragged into another Middle East conflict.

The White House has ruled out sending combat troops, but US manned and unmanned aircraft are flying dozens of reconnaissance missions a day over Iraq.

The Sunni insurgent’s offensive is fuelled, at least in part, by the Sunni minority’s long list of grievances with Mr al-Maliki and his Shiite-led government.

Iraq’s new parliament met for the first time on Tuesday since April elections but was deadlocked less than two hours into the meeting when Sunnis and Kurds walked out.

Mr al-Maliki, who has been prime minister since 2006, is being pressed to step aside as his failure to promote reconciliation has been blamed for stoking the Sunni insurgency led by al-Qaida splinter group Isis.