Iraq crisis: Key developments

Baghdad, Iraq CNN  — 

Iraqi lawmakers worked Thursday to organize the process for forming a new government – with encouragement from the United States and Britain – while a military spokesman said security forces defended the Baiji oil refinery and the University of Tikrit. Also Thursday, a bomb killed 19 people in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad.

Here are the latest developments:

Fight for Haditha Dam

A large number of ISIS fighters and allied militants attacked Haditha in Anbar province on Thursday from two directions, but Iraqi forces backed by Sunni tribesmen repelled the attack, Haditha’s police chief said.

The Haditha Dam, which has been described as an ISIS target, is being held by the 7th Division of the Iraqi forces as well as SWAT and helicopters, the police chief said.

Tanks and armored vehicles have also been positioned around the dam, he said.

If something happens to the dam and the floodgates are opened, it could be devastating to the area, the police chief said.

Iraq’s Ministry of Interior said on its website that Iraqi forces killed 20 ISIS fighters in Haditha. It did not provide any evidence to support the claim.

Baghdad blast

A bomb blast in northern Baghdad’s Kadimiyah neighborhood has killed 19 people and wounded 41 on Thursday evening, police officials told CNN.

The explosion occurred after 6 p.m. local time near the Imam Musa al-Kadhim shrine in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood.

There were conflicting reports as to whether the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber or car bomb.

Diplomats: U.S. airstrikes unlikely before new government

The Obama administration is unlikely to undertake any military strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, in Iraq before a new government is formed, senior U.S. officials and Arab diplomats told CNN.

The administration is careful not to publicly, or even privately, demand that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki step down, insisting that Iraqis themselves must determine who will be in the government.

But senior U.S. officials and Arab diplomats say they see al-Maliki’s ouster as a foregone conclusion, as his inability to gain enough votes will eventually prompt his Shiite-led party to put forth another candidate whom the country’s Sunni and Kurds will accept.

Zebari: ‘Nobody has control over border points’

Iraq’s foreign minister told CNN’s Hala Gorani that “nobody has control over the border points.”

Asked whether he was comfortable with Syria taking unilateral action and bombing targets inside Iraq with or without warning, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said: “Well, not comfortable of discomfortable, really, this is the reality. Nobody has control over the border points.”

He said the Iraqi side “is trying very hard to reassert its control, but the Syrians have also found an opportunity to reassert they are still there, they still (have) air power to bomb these insurgents and these terrorists.

Atta: Seesaw battle for Baiji refinery over

Iraq’s military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, released video during a televised news conference that he said showed government forces defending the Baiji oil refinery, a crucial resource that provides much of the fuel in the region needed for domestic consumption.

“The Baiji refinery is under complete control of government forces,” Atta said.

For days there have been contradicting claims about just who is in control of the refinery.

Atta: ISIS commander killed

The Iraqi military spokesman said security forces killed ISIS commander Abu Anas al-Shami and seven of his aids in the al-Qaim region. Atta did not detail who al-Shami was or how he was killed.

Hague in Iraq

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, on a visit to Baghdad on Thursday, called for the swift formation of an inclusive government, saying Iraqi political leaders must put sectarian division aside.

“The Iraqi state is facing an existential threat, with huge ramifications for the future stability and freedom of this country,” he said. “The single most important factor that will determine whether or not Iraq overcomes this challenge is political unity.”

Hague said this would be the focus of his discussions with al-Maliki and Kurdish regional leader Masoud Barzani.

Hague said the UK can provide diplomatic support, counterterrorism cooperation, and humanitarian support.

“It is also clear to us that we will need new and intensified international efforts and mechanisms to stem the flow of arms and fighters to extremist groups, to cut off their finances and prevent them from exploiting the economic assets they have seized,” Hague said.

Al-Maliki: Syrian airstrikes welcome

Al-Maliki said in an interview with British broadcaster BBC that Syrian forces targeted positions on the Syrian side of the border of the al-Qaim crossing only and without coordination with Baghdad, Prime Minister’s office spokesman, Ali Al-Mawlawi, told CNN Thursday.

“There was no coordination involved. But we welcome this action. We actually welcome any Syrian strike against ISIS,” al-Maliki told the BBC. “… But we didn’t make any request to Syria. They carry out their strikes and we carry out ours, and the final winners are our two countries.”

But local officials claim at least 57 Iraqi civilians were killed and more than 120 others were wounded by what local officials say were Syrian warplanes that struck several border areas of Anbar province Tuesday.

The airstrikes hit markets and gas stations in Iraqi border areas such as Rutba, al-Walid and al-Qaim, Sabah Karkhout, the head of the provincial council, said Wednesday.

These border cities are among those under the control of ISIS.

Assault at University of Tikrit

State-run Iraqiya reported Thursday that Iraqi special forces were airdropped Thursday over the University of Tikrit, which has been under the control of fighters linked with ISIS since the second week of June.

The battle at the university between Iraqi forces and ISIS fighters left 40 militants dead and 10 under arrest, according to Iraqiya, which offered no evidence of the claims.

It also reported the Iraqi air force carried out a strike on a presidential palace complex in Tikrit, killing 70 fighters.

Again, the state-run news channel offered no evidence to support the claim.

ISIS fighters took Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, with days of seizing control of Mosul.

Tikrit is a Sunni city that sits about 150 kilometers (95 miles) north of Baghdad.

Suicide blast north of Mosul

At least one Kurdish security officer was killed and 15 other people were wounded when a suicide car bomb struck a checkpoint manned by Kurdish forces in Korchali, northeast of Mosul, Thursday, according to Kurdish security forces in Irbil.

The checkpoint is considered the last checkpoint of Kurdish security forces before Mosul. Just a few hundred meters away is a checkpoint manned by ISIS militants.

Air raids across Iraq

State-run Iraqiya is reporting that the Iraqi air force has carried out a 108 air raids across the county, killing 189 ISIS fighters. Of those, 48 were killed in Salaheddin province, it reported.

It claimed eight ISIS leaders have been killed. It offered no evidence to support the claims, and CNN cannot independently confirm them.

Iraq’s parliament set to convene

Iraq’s Presidency issued a directive calling for Parliament to convene on July 1, Iraqi State TV reported on Thursday.

In a televised speech Wednesday, al-Maliki vowed to stick to the timeline to create a new government.