After nearly a month long assault on the Iraqi city of Tikrit by the Iraqi military and Iranian-backed Shiite militias, the city was finally retaken from ISIS.
Recapturing Saddam Huessein’s hometown was expected to only take a few days, but ISIS (aka Islamic State, Daesh) laid a bunch of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that shredded Shia militiamen.
And there was another problem, according to US officials: The Iranian-backed militias couldn’t shoot very well.
“U.S. officials assessed that the Iranian-backed assault on Tikrit was failing because of the inaccuracy of Iranian artillery and the failure of the Tehran-backed militias to respond to orders or coordinate their movements with the Iraqi security forces nominally leading the fight,” The Wall Street Journal reports.
Tikrit was only successfully retaken once the US started conducting airstrikes against the militants, which effectively sidelined the Shiite militias. Three explicitly linked Iranian-militias, the Asaib Ahl al Haq, the Hezbollah Brigades, and the Badr Corps withdrew their troops from the front lines following the US intervention. The original offensive included 25,000 – 30,000 Shia militiamen.
Other Shiite militias that remained alongside the Iraqi Army after the airstrikes were identified by the US as potential partners in the fight against ISIS. Those militias, which supposedly aren’t beholden to Iran, number at least 4,5000 fighters.
According to the WSJ, the US deliberately used airstrikes in Tikrit “to drive a wedge between Iran and Iraq” while becoming more effective partners with Iraqi-led Shiite militias.
The Iranian-backed militias, such as the Badr Corps, directly fought against the US during the occupation of Iraq and were responsible for countless deaths linked to improvised explosive devices. The groups have also committed retribution atrocities against Sunni civilians since the ISIS offensive such as the burning down of villages and the purposeful looting of homes.
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