June 17 - Kurdish Peshmerga forces clash with militants from the the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant near Kirkuk. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
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Clashes in Kirkuk as Kurdish Peshmerga forces take the fight to militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Baghdad's military retreat from the north last week allowed Peshmerga forces to seize control of long-disputed Kirkuk and its oil reserves.
The relentless violence is threatening to dismember Iraq and unleash all-out sectarian warfare with little regard for national borders.
Iraq's Shi'ite rulers defied Western calls Tuesday to reach out to Sunnis -- instead they declared a boycott of Iraq's main Sunni political bloc and are accusing Sunni power Saudi Arabia of promoting "genocide".
The sudden advance by Sunni insurgents has the potential to scramble alliances in the Middle East, with the U.S. and Iran both saying they could cooperate against a common enemy, all but unprecedented since the 1979 Iranian revolution.
Families flee the violence along the road to Kirkuk.
(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN FROM TUZ, SAYING:
"We brought our families, money and sheep and fled. We are afraid for the safety of our families, so we fled leaving our clothes, our homes and our wheat and barley plantation. We left everything behind and we fled."
U.S. President Barack Obama, is considering options for military action such as air strikes. He has sent extra marines to guard the U.S. embassy but has ruled out redeploying troops, which left the country in 2011, after more than 4,400 died in an increasingly unpopular war.