Iraqi leader confirms Syrian strikes on border

​An unverified image posted online on June 24, 2014, purportedly shows damage from a Syrian airstrike on the Iraqi town of Qaim

An unverified image posted online on June 24, 2014, purportedly shows damage from a Syrian airstrike on the Iraqi town of Qaim, on the Syrian border.


BAGHDAD -- Sunni Muslim militants in Iraq captured a town overnight that is home to several large natural gas fields, where a number of foreign companies operate, in their latest advance in the region.

The latest bad news for Iraq's central government came as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki confirmed what was already a widely known fact; he's getting some help from his neighbors in Syria.

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Syrian warplanes have struck suspected Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also known as ISIL) targets in the Iraqi border town of Qaim. Al-Maliki said he didn't request the strikes, but welcomed them just the same, reports CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata.

And, according to Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, Damascus is happy to provide the service.

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"For ISIS to occupy this big part of Iraq is dangerous for the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq," Mekdad told CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer in Damascus recently. "It also makes us feel more endangered and we should mobilize our efforts together with all those that want to fight against terrorism."

The Obama administration was far less enthusiastic about Syria's government joining in the fight across its border.

"We continue to underscore that the solution to the threat confronting Iraq is not the intervention of the Assad regime, which allowed ISIL to thrive in the first place," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Wednesday. "The solution to Iraq's security challenge does not involve militias or the murderous Assad regime."

ISIS militants have seized a number of border crossings in recent days, allowing them to shift weapons and fighters from Syria into Iraq, and the group continues to push for more territory in the north and west of the country.

One of the biggest battles is being waged over the country's largest oil refinery. Iraqi forces claim to be in control the sprawling Baiji refinery, but that's disputed by the militants.

North of Baghdad, after two weeks of humiliating and hasty retreats, Iraqi forces have been on the move toward the front line city of of Samarra with tanks, heavy weapons, and rallying speeches.

But they have yet to launch any serious counteroffensive. At the moment, they seem more intent on defending Baghdad, where the troop presence has almost doubled since the crisis erupted.