"The biggest offensive against ISIS so far happened without American help—but with plenty of assistance from Iran.
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.
The news is the latest indication that not all is well with the American effort against the terror group. On Friday, U.S. defense officials told The Daily Beast that a planned offensive against the ISIS stronghold of Mosul had been indefinitely postponed. " Daily Beast
Shia militia to the fore
- The Popular Mobilisation (Hashid Shaabi), comprising dozens of Shia militia, takes a lead role in Iraqi operations against Islamic State (IS)
- It was formed by the Shia-led government in June 2014 after the army collapsed in the face of an advance by IS militants across northern Iraq
- Thousands volunteered to fight after Iraq's most senior Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, called on people to take up arms and defend their country and its holy sites
- Iran provides funding, weapons and military advisers to militia in the Popular Mobilisation, and reportedly controls several of them directly
- The Popular Mobilisation is headed by Jamal Jaafar Mohammed, also known as Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis, a former Badr Organisation commander who is close to Iranian General Qassem Soleimani
- Militiamen have been accused of committing atrocities and acting with impunity. Activists say Sunni Arab civilians have been forced from their homes, kidnapped, and in some cases summarily killed
Apparently, there is no US coalition air power involved in this effort to re-conquer Salah al Din Province and the city of Tikrit. Many will doubt that Baghdad did not inform the US of this effort but I see no reason to doubt that datum. Iran is the Shia government of Iraq's natural ally, not the US. The US now objects to oppression of the Sunni Arabs by the government and by the Shia militias aligned with the government. This makes no sense to the Shia. For them, an enemy is an enemy, period, end of story.
At the same time the openly heralded offensive to Mosul several hundred miles beyond Tikrit has been postponed "indefinitely." IMO this represents a prudent worry on the part of the Iraqis and their Iranian advisers that (as I observed in an earlier post ) such a deep thrust would carry a great risk of reversal beyond the point of culmination of the drive.
It is a good idea from the Shia point of view to run a "test" of their ability t campaign to the north. Let us see if they can do that. pl