Shiite volunteers, who have joined the Iraqi army to fight against the predominantly Sunni militants who have taken over Mosul and other northern provinces, gesture with their weapons in Baghdad, June 18, 2014.


REUTERS/Ahmed Saad

Iraq’s Ambassador to the US, Lukman Faily, was in a tough position Thursday — he said the Iraqi government still claims territorial sovereignty over all of Iraq, but admitted that there have been military setbacks.

He called the situation in Iraq an emergency and pleaded for US help in stopping the group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from igniting what could become a “global religious war.”  

“What we’re saying is we have an immediate threat,” said Faily. “We are having a lot of positive signs from the White House, regarding their engagement, their support, their comprehensive package ... The issue is vital to US interests and is existential to our existence.”

But defeating ISIS is proving especially difficult with many Iraqi soldiers running from the fight and abandoning weapons.

“There are a lot of lessons to learn there, there is a serious reflection going on,” said Faily. “There has been some change at the leadership within the military, more will follow.”

Faily insisted military matters have improved.

“There was an issue of morale, however, that issue is not the main issue now … We have proven now that issue has been addressed.”

Iraq's most senior Shiite Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani, urged followers to take up arms against the Sunni-led insurgents this week. Faily said that has given Iraqis “a significant morale boost,” and would not deepen sectarian violence.

“He’s saying defend your land, work with the government, these are all national statements, nothing about sectarianism,” Faily said,

Faily reiterated that the Iraqi government needs American help.

“If we don’t get help, it would be a prolonged, vicious war in this street fighting ... We don’t want that. Surely the United States doesn’t want that. Any help in supporting counter-terrorism, air supremacy, will greatly help us, we as a democratic society, in our fight against international terrorism.” 

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