Update 2: A naive U.S. welcome for Iran in Iraq
My how things change. The Iraqi government is cheesed off at the United States right now because Washington isn’t dropping bombs on Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.
“The Americans continue procrastinating about the time it will take to liberate the country.” That’s from Ali al-Alaa, an aid to the new prime minister Haider al-Abadi, to the New York Times yesterday.
Tikrit is occupied by ISIS. Baghdad wants it back. Washington would like to see Baghdad get it back, but the Pentagon has good reasons to keep its finger off the fire button right now. The Iraqi armed forces consist partly of Shia militias led by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps fighters who are firing artillery and even operating surveillance drones.
The Iranian-Iraqi coalition has made almost no progress at all in Tikrit. ISIS laced the area with mines and is dispatching suicide bombers with reckless abandon–another bit of irony. Iran’s Lebanese client Hezbollah pioneered suicide bombings in the Middle East during the 1980s, and now that very deplorable tactic is being used against its own architects closer to home.
The Iraqi Security Forces, supported by several Iranian-backed Shiite militias and Sunni tribal fighters, have launched an offensive to retake Tikrit from the Islamic State, which has held the central Iraqi city since June 2014. Massive columns of Shiite militas, including some groups that are listed by the US as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, have been leading the fight in Tikrit.
The operation, which involves more than thirty thousand Iraqi security personnel and militia forces, started on the morning of March 2. According to Al Jazeera, Iraqi forces and allied militias attacked the city from three sides while Iraqi aviation launched an aerial bombardment.
As of yet, the US has not launched any airstrikes in support of the operation. The US has refused to support the Tikrit offensive because Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) elements are actively supporting the operation, anonymous US officials have told The Wall Street Journal.
Although the US military has refused to provide air support for the offensive due to Iran’s involvement, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Iran’s involvement could be “a positive thing” if the Shiite militias do not lash out at Sunnis in and around Tikrit.
Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Qods Force, the external operations wing of the IRGC, has been spotted near Tikrit. Soleimani’s forces are tasked with supporting the Iraqi military and Shiite militias, including the Badr Brigade, Kata’ib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades), Asaib al Haq (League of the Righteous), Kata’ib Imam Ali, and Muqtada al Sadr’s Promised Day Brigade (or Peace Brigade). The Shiite militias have been instrumental in reinforcing beleaguered and demoralized Iraqi forces, and have helped retake some areas in Iraq, including Jurf al Sakhar and Amerli.
All I can think of is the old military acronym FUBAR.