In many of Iraq’s northern and western cities, the nation’s army has simply been overrun. In January, the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured the central city of Ramadi and parts of Fallujah. Then in early June, they stormed the metropolis Mosul as well as several other major cities.

It was only with great difficulty and a huge effort that the army managed to fend off the Sunni extremists in some places.

Although Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki likes to be seen as a guarantor of security and stability, he seems powerless to stop the extremists’ advance towards Baghdad. Maliki’s only hope is to appeal for help from abroad. […]