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. Dempsey also estimated that the militias make up more than two-thirds of the fighting force, The Associated Press noted. Shiite militias have been accused of launching reprisal attacks against Sunni civilians and executing scores of people after liberating areas from Islamic State control…
Iran is certainly expanding its power in the Middle East. It has also picked up northern Yemen in the last few days.