The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's (ISIS) takeover of Iraq earlier this month took the world by storm, as the successive fall of several major cities in the Sunni-dominated northwest left Iraqis fleeing and world leaders shaken.
But what if the blitz military conquest could have been prevented altogether?
Kurdish intelligence reported news of a strategic alliance and pact between Islamist groups to topple Mosul and other major Iraqi cities with ISIS's help as far back as January, the Telegraph reported late Sunday.
Shortly after the fall of Fallujah to ISIS, an informant reportedly stepped into a Kurdish intelligence office to reveal the news that ISIS officials had networked with remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime and former Hussein deputy Izzat al-Douri to plan a large-scale invasion.
But while Kurdish handlers ran immediately to the US and Britain with the information, the West allegedly sat back and did nothing.
"We had this information then, and we passed it on to your (British) government and the US government," Rooz Bahjat, a senior lieutenant to Lahur Talabani, head of Kurdish intelligence, told the Telegraph. "We used our official liaisons."
"We knew exactly what strategy they were going to use, we knew the military planners," he added. "It fell on deaf ears."
He warned that the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was now a greater threat to western countries than Osama bin Laden had been in 2001.
But the West may be responsible for more than just the current waves of ISIS takeovers.
Both Bahjat and Talabani stated that the West's lack of resolve to tie up all the loose ends in the 2003 invasion caused the current crisis on the grand scale - despite a common criticism that the invasion itself caused the crisis.
And the future does not look promising, they said.
"[ISIS leader] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is now something bin Laden could only dream of being," Bahjat said. "The sleep of reason produces monsters. It's the lack of resolve in the West that is the most important thing."
"Reason has been sleeping and now we have lots of monsters," he added.
Cleaning up the mess?
ISIS has been beaten back slightly from the northwestern front since it first attacked earlier this month, as forces were driven out of Jalula after a brief takeover and resistance has fomented near Baiji and outside of Tal Afar.
However, ISIS forces continue to descend upon Baghdad as of Monday morning, as confused fighting continues in a steady line toward the capital city (see map below).
The US's involvement in the fighting continues to be the source of ongoing controversy, with many claiming recent efforts to help Iraqi forces drive off the ISIS invasion are an utter failure.
US President Barack Obama has waffled back and forth on the American position on the crisis. Last Friday, he committed to not sending troops to Iraq - only to send over 500 marines, dozens of helicopters, and the aircraft carrier George HW Bush into the Persian Gulf on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, he ruled out American airstrikes on ISIS, while hinting this was a possibility in last Thursday’s speech.
As of Monday morning, US Secretary of State John Kerry and his team have landed in Baghdad to help clean up the mess, spokeswoman Jen Psaki stated as of 11:30 a.m. IST. Kerry is part of a delegation of 300 "advisers" to Iraqi forces.
Meanwhile, Kurdish authorities say the mission has little hopes of making a difference.
"I have completely lost hope in America after listening to President Barack Obama," Talabani said. "I blame him personally for what has happened in Syria, in the Middle East, in Iraq at the moment."
"I have no hope any more."