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• ISIS has shocked observers by the speed of its takeover of large amounts of Iraqi territory

• The group is perceived to be extreme even by the standards of al-Qaeda

• The advance has shown up the weakness of the Iraqi state and its armed forces

• It may be more difficult for the group to make such progress in Shia-majority areas, including Baghdad. Nevertheless, its successes are a huge threat to the region and threaten a sharp increase in Sunni-Shia hostilities

• It is also accelerating change in the region, with the US and Iran openly talking about cooperating, and the Kurds seeing an opportunity to consolidate and expand their area

• Iraq has requested military assistance from the US

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