Members of the Kurdish peshmerga stand guard at a checkpoint at Tuz Khurmato village in Salahuddin Province June 26, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
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The crisis in Iraq, sparked by a lightning offensive from Sunni jihadists led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), finds heavily armed players on opposite sides.o Can ISIS continue pushing toward Baghdad?o Can Iraq's army regain lost ground?On paper, Iraq has a fearsome army: a budget of $17 billion (a 40 percent increase as compared with 2011), 193,000 men, more than 330 tanks, 3,700 armored troop carriers and 26 Mi-17 attack helicopters, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Above all, the army is seen as the personal militia of Maliki, a Shiite loathed by Sunnis.The Kurdish peshmerga forces – 35,000 of them integrated in the Iraqi army – are well trained and equipped by the United States and Russia.For now, Washington has sent 300 military advisers to help the Iraq army and has carried out surveillance flights over Iraqi territory.ISIS fighters would likely adapt by mixing in with the civilian population, making airstrikes even more complicated.
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