Joint Iraqi-Iranian Operations in Tikrit
Iraqi army and Iranian army in joint offensive to retake Tikrit.
I haven’t seen a great deal of reporting on this in the American press and I didn’t want to let it slip away without remarking on it. There is presently a major operation under way in Iraq’s Anbar province to retake the city of Tikrit from DAESH. The operation is a joint one including the Iraqi army, Shi’ite militiamen, and Iranian advisors:
The Iraqi military launched a major campaign to take back a key city from the self-proclaimed Islamic State over the weekend—a move that caught the U.S. “by surprise,” in the words of one American government official.
The U.S.-led coalition forces that have conducted seven months of airstrikes on Iraq’s behalf did not participate in the attack, defense officials told The Daily Beast, and the American military has no plans to chip in.
Instead, embedded Iranian advisers and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are taking part in the offensive on the largely Sunni town, raising the prospect that the fight to beat back ISIS could become a sectarian war.
Iraqi army soldiers and Shia militiamen are seeking to encircle Islamic State fighters in Tikrit, on the third day of a major operation to retake the city.
State-run al-Iraqiya TV said government forces were “advancing” but progress has been slowed by roadside bombs.
Security sources said they had captured villages and oil fields east of the city, and blocked a key IS supply line to neighbouring Diyala province.
The offensive is being overseen at least in part by an Iranian general.
On Tuesday, the top US general said Iran’s role in Tikrit could be positive, as long as it did not fuel sectarian tensions.
There are a number of interesting aspects of this not the least of which is mentioned in both The Daily Beast’s and the Beeb’s coverage: the potential for a sectarian war.
The second interesting aspect of this is that the U. S. military was reportedly unaware of this operation until after it was under way. You can draw whatever conclusion you care to from that.
The most on-the-nose remark I’ve heard about this campaign to date is that highly motivated fighters armed with AK-47s, hatchets, and bags of hand grenades are probably more useful in the sort of urban warfare that will be involved in Tikrit than U. S. air power.
Finally, this campaign should be highly indicative of the prospects for any upcoming campaign to retake Mosul.