"World's Richest Terrorist Group" Continues Advance Through Iraq

Sunni insurgents advancing towards Baghdad took two more towns in Iraq last night, seizing control of Saadiyah and Jalawla as Iraqi security forces reportedly abandoned their posts without a fight.

The insurgents, operating under the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), took $450 million in a bank heist during their takeover of Mosul on Monday, according to Mosul's mayor. As NBC News points out, the bounty makes ISIS "the world's richest terrorist group."

Barack Obama said he is considering options for military strikes to help curb the assault on the Iraqi government. The Associated Press reports that U.S. officials will not put troops on the ground, but airstrikes are a possibility. "We do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria, for that matter," Obama said in the Oval Office yesterday.

In a show of support for Iraq that would have been unthinkable years ago, Iran has sent two elite Revolutionary Guard units into the country, raising the odd prospect of Iranian and American forces allying against a common enemy, the Wall Street Journal reports. Iran and Iraq were enemies under Saddam Hussein's Sunni regime, but have become allies since his downfall.

And about Saddam: Raghad Saddam Hussein, his daughter, said she is "very happy" with the militants' advance, which she credited to Izzat al Douri, a Hussein-era general who now supports ISIS.

Meanwhile, Shiite leadership in Iraq is calling on citizens to stand with the government against the insurgents. From the New York Times:

In a statement during Friday prayers from the representative of the most senior Shiite cleric in the country, the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, said it was "the legal and national responsibility of whoever can hold a weapon, to hold it to defend the country, the citizens and the holy sites."

The representative of Mr. Sistani, Sheikh Abdul Mehdi al-Karbalaie, speaking in Karbala, one of Iraq's holiest cities for Shiites, said the numbers of fighters and volunteers "must fill the gaps within the security forces," but he cautioned they should not do more that, stopping short of calling for a general armed response to the rebellion led by the Sunni jihadi group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

If the U.S. decides to send air support, Daily Beast national security correspondent and all-around warhawk Eli Lake argues, we could have jets over Iraq within 24 hours.

[Image via AP]