The recent offensive by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) -- also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) -- has shown that events sometimes move very rapidly in Iraq.
Containing the threat to the rest of Iraq has presented Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki with a new set of challenges, and his reponse in declaring a state of emergency has been criticised in some quarters.
Meanwhile, his Oil Minister Abdul Kareem al-Luaibi [Elaibi] has assured the world that the oil-producing South is "very, very safe", which is important to remember, but little consolation to those affected by the violence in the North.
As part of our commitment to keeping our readers fully briefed on the rapidly evolving situation in Iraq, we are delighted to welcome a new Expert Blogger to our ranks: John Cookson has been reporting from Iraq for 25 years for international news channels including Al Jazeera English and Sky News. He will be sharing his insights on Iraqi politics and business, and we look forward to reading his perspectives.
(Flag image via Shutterstock)