23 June 2014
Last updated at 11:51
US Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, as Sunni insurgents expand their control of towns across north-western Iraq.
Insurgents are reported to be trying to take control of a dam near the city of Haditha – its destruction could damage the country’s electrical grid.
On Sunday, Isis-led rebels captured border crossings to Syria and Jordan.
The strategically important airport in the northern town of Tal Afar has also fallen to the rebels.
There are reports that the town itself has also fallen to the rebels. Tal Afar controls the main road from the Syrian border to Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, which was captured by the rebels two weeks ago.
The Iraqi military has sent reinforcements to the dam near Haditha to protect it, reports say.
Iraqi security forces fire artillery during clashes with militants on the outskirts of the town of Udaim in Diyala
Sunni fighters, among them the jihadists of Isis, have taken large swathes of western and northern Iraq
Mr Kerry met Mr Maliki in Baghdad on Monday during his tour of the region to resolve the crisis
Officials said the rebels of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant took two key crossings in Anbar on Sunday, a day after seizing one at Qaim, a town in the province that borders Syria.
The capture of Tal Afar airport is a blow to the government as they were hoping to use it as a springboard to recapture the city of Mosul, says the BBC’s Jim Muir in northern Iraq.
Police sources in Iraq have told the BBC that 70 prisoners have been killed near the city of Hillah, south of Baghdad. The prisoners, who were all accused of terrorism, were being moved further south for security reasons when the convoy came under attack by gunmen.
They were killed in the crossfire, several policemen were injured and six of the gunmen were shot dead, police said.
Analysis by Jim Muir, BBC News, in Irbil
John Kerry is trying to persuade politicians across the board to rise above the sectarian and ethnic divides and come together to pull their country back from the brink of fragmentation.
The question is no longer whether Iraq is splitting up – it is. The question is whether that process can somehow be reversed. The odds are not good.
A future Iraq will clearly have to involve a large measure of devolution, if not actual partition. It could happen bloodily, or by agreement.
It is unlikely Mr Kerry will find a single Iraqi leader apart from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki himself who believes the incumbent premier is the man to lead a reconciliation process necessary for a political solution.
But if Iran insists Mr Maliki has to stay – as it has with Bashar al-Assad in Syria – the chances of a settlement will be sharply reduced.
A solution would require some kind of understanding between the two major outside players, the US and Iran, but there is little sign of a meeting of minds so far.
Can Kerry pull Iraq back from the brink?
Since the fall of Mosul in early June, Isis have helped win large areas in the west and north.
They have taken four strategically important towns in the predominantly Sunni Anbar province – Qaim, Rutba, Rawa and Anah – in the last two days.
Gunmen were said to have captured the border posts of Walid, on the Syrian frontier, and Traybil, on the Jordanian border, on Sunday after government forces pulled out.
The capture of frontier crossings could help Isis transport weapons and other equipment to different battlefields, analysts say.
Speaking in Cairo on Sunday, Mr Kerry urged Iraq’s leaders “to rise above sectarian motivations and form a government that is united in its determination to meet the needs and speak to the demands of all of their people”.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he opposed any US intervention, and accused Washington of “seeking an Iraq under its hegemony and ruled by its stooges”.
“The main dispute in Iraq is between those who want Iraq to join the US camp and those who seek an independent Iraq,” he said, dismissing talk of sectarianism.
The US, which pulled out of Iraq in 2011, is deploying some 300 military advisers to Iraq to help in the fight against the insurgents.
Are you in Iraq or do you have family in the country? You can contact us by emailing [email protected] using ‘Iraq’ in the subject heading.
Alternatively you can get in touch using this form