John F. McCreary

Today, an Iraqi interior ministry official said, "The city of Mosul is outside the control of the state and at the mercy of the militants."

A brigadier general in the military command responsible for the Governate of Nineveh said that clashes with hundreds of militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) began late Monday. He said military units withdrew from the city's east to its west, and then began leaving the city, with the militants now in control. The militants seized the provincial government building, the Nineveh Operations Command and the airport. They also freed hundreds of prisoners from three jails. Many of them are jihadists. 

Prime Minister al-Maliki declared a state of high alert in Iraq and asked parliament to declare a state of emergency in the country. 

ISIL has been trying to take Mosul since earlier in June, but only lately assembled enough forces to rout the security forces and overrun the city. ISIL now controls two major cities in the Sunni region of Iraq: Fallujah and Mosul. Its fighters tried to overrun several other cities, but failed. Its aim is to create an Islamic emirate that joins Iraq and Syria.

The group had been affiliated with al Qaida for many years, since the time of Abu Musab Zarqawi, according to the National Counter Terrorism Center. In February al Qaida disavowed all links with ISIL because its actions were more extreme than al Qaida and it would not follow orders to stop fighting the al Nusrah Front in Syria, which al-Qaida supports.

On Sunday in Syria, ISIL fighters clashed with the al-Qaida-affiliated al Nusrah Front in eastern Syria, while its Iraq wing fought to capture Mosul in Iraq. This is a formidable group. Only the Syrian Kurds stand in the way of ISIL consolidating large areas in Iraq and Syria under its control.

Mosul's capture reinforces the judgment that Iraq has re-entered civil war. ISIL is more than an insurgency because it has an effective organization and is conquering territory. By force of arms, it has created a power-sharing arrangement with the government in Baghdad and fragmented the country. A statement by the Muslim scholars association today encouraged ISIL to hold Mosul and to set up an administration. It urged the youth of the city to defend it against the Baghdad government.

ISIL's control in Syria seems tenuous and contested by other opposition groups. In Iraq, it is the dominant anti-government force and it has broken Iraq, for now.

Image Al Jazeera America via AP: Shakir Waheib, left, a senior member of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, in an undated photo from an insurgent website.

John F. McCreary is the Chief Analysis Officer for  Kforce Government Solutions (KGS) and the author of Nightwatch, an overnight executive summary and analysis of developments in world events . McCreary has more than 42 years of experience as a professional analyst and is a distinguished 38 year veteran of defense intelligence. McCreary joined the Defense Intelligence Agency in 1968 as an intelligence analyst specializing in Chinese language and studies. Between 1980 and 1992 he was the senior analyst and Director, National Warning Staff, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence. This commentary appears courtesy of KGS.