Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki authorized air support to help beleaguered Kurdish forces in the north, his government announced Monday, as Islamic militants battled for control of two dams that would allow the insurgents to trigger havoc with massive flooding.

The latest military developments offer further proof that the rebels command a powerful conventional force that poses an increasing threat to Baghdad, analysts said.

“It behaves more like an army than a terrorist network,” Jessica Lewis, who tracks developments in Iraq at the Institute for the Study of War, said of the militants. Originally fighting under the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the group now calls itself the Islamic State. […]