The extremist Islamist group ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, shocked the world this week by conquering the northern city of Mosul, one of Iraq's largest cities and home to some 2 million people.
ISIS is also a key player in the Syrian civil war, fighting both the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and more moderate rebel forces.
The group is made of Syrian, Iraqi and foreign fighters who slide back and forth between the two countries for attacks on opponents or to take safe haven in the territory they control. Mosul is by far their biggest conquest yet.
We now return to NPR's Michele Kelemen on how the White House is weighing its options in aiding Iraq and its Confrontation with ISIS extremist and finding limited options.
MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: For those experts who argued that the U.S. should have tried harder to reach an agreement with Iraq to leave some troops there rather than pull out completely in 2011 this is their nightmare scenario. Retired Army officer Rick Brennan did a study for the RAND Corporation that showed that Iraqi security forces just weren't ready.
U.S. relations with Russia are at their lowest point since the Cold War thanks to the crisis in Ukraine. Russian defense officials are talking about a new doctrine of subversive warfare between major world powers. They accuse the West of using popular uprisings to topple unfriendly governments. And some analysts say Moscow itself is employing that strategy in eastern Ukraine. More from NPR's Corey Flintoff.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish. Iraq seems to be breaking apart at the seams. Sunni extremists have taken more territory as government troops abandon their posts. Today, President Obama said Iraq needs help to counter the extremist group known as ISIS - Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.