"The Iranians have started acting in Iraq, though they have not committed many people. They are trying repeat their tactics in Syria, which is to create a parallel army out of the militias to buttress or replace the regular Iraqi army. They openly say they are doing so. But there is another aspect of their Syrian strategy which shows signs of appearing in Iraq and is bad news for Iraqis. This is to cut off electricity and water to rebel areas and pulverise any town or city held by the enemy with shellfire and bombing without assaulting it, but forcing the civilian population to flee; then advance cautiously and try to encircle enemy positions with checkpoints so they can be gradually strangled.
This appears to be what is happening in Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein and a city of 200,000 on the Tigris river. The city centre is being systematically smashed according to eyewitnesses, and any point of resistance is pounded by artillery. Iraqi security officials say they believe they have a good chance of clearing Salahuddin province of which Tikrit is the capital, but they admit that recapturing Mosul will take a long time. Meanwhile, Isis has started bulldozing Shia shrines and religious buildings, opening the door to a ferocious religious war." Cockburn
This is a new thought, at least for me. Maliki's army has been engaged at Tikrit for a week, more or less. They are not making progress visible to me or the press.
Is this a further indicator of ineptitude and a lack of firmness of purpose, or is it a reflection, as Cockburn thinks, of Iranian strategic planning?
He also thinks the Iranians will seek to make the Shia militias that were recently raised into a Hizbullah clone.
This is interesting, but one must ask if Iran has really had as much control over strategy and events in Lebanon and Syria as Cockburn implies. pl