Baghdad: Iraqi forces struggled to regain ground lost last month to jihadist-led militants and politicians remained divided on Monday despite mounting pressure to unite and agree on a new leadership.
Nearly a month after militants led by the group now calling itself the Islamic State (IS) swept through northern Iraq, plunging the country into one of its worst crises in years, the prospect of either a military or a political solution still looked distant.
Iraqi forces have regrouped after the debacle that saw some soldiers abandon their positions, weapons and uniforms as militants conquered Iraq`s second city of Mosul and advanced to within about 80 kilometres of the capital Baghdad.
The government has received fighter jets from Russia and Iran, intelligence from Washington and enlisted the help of Shiite militias it once shunned or fought to strike back at the loose alliance of IS fighters, other jihadist groups and former Saddam Hussein loyalists who now control swathes of territory.
It has for more than a week attempted to wrest back the Sunni stronghold of Tikrit seized by IS fighters in their lightning onslaught last month but has so far failed to achieve a breakthrough.
According to analysts, a dearth of intelligence in Sunni areas -- due largely to distrust of the Shiite-led authorities among minority Sunni Arabs -- and a lack of combat experience have hamstrung Iraqi forces.
"The army and the police are seen as sectarian... And therefore the Sunni community doesn`t provide support or, crucially, intelligence to the security forces," said John Drake, an analyst at the AKE Group security company.
"If you don`t have good intelligence on the ground, your strikes are not precise, they involve collateral damage and casualties ... Making everything worse," he added Drake.
While most observers have argued that Baghdad was not about to fall, violence and suicide bombings have continued.