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Tags: US | Iraq | ISIS | Tikrit | iran | shiite | sunnis

WashPost: Obama 'Ill-Advised' in Letting Iran Take the Lead in Iraq

By    |   Friday, 06 March 2015 12:22 PM

Under President Barack Obama, U.S. commanders are taking a relatively upbeat view of Iranian involvement in the Iraqi military's campaign to retake the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State (ISIS), which captured it last summer.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee this week that two-thirds of the attacking force there was comprised of Shiite militias and that the operation had "overt … Iranian support."

Dempsey added that "if they perform in a credible way" then their role will "in the main have been a positive thing."

This optimism "seems shortsighted," The Washington Post editorialized, noting that the Iranian government has sent its artillery, drones and ground forces to participate in the military campaign, while Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has excluded the United States.

The Iranian role in the offensive is being overseen by Iranian Gen. Qassem Suleimani, head of the Revolutionary Guard Qods Force.

Given that Tikrit is part of Iraq's Sunni heartland, the large-scale involvement of Iran and Shiite militias aligned with it "could turn what is supposed to be a counterterrorism campaign into a sectarian bloodbath," The Post observes.

While Abadi has talked of reconciliation with the Sunnis, there is ample reason for skepticism. Less than 5 percent of the 30,000-strong attacking force consists of Sunni fighters, and the government has failed to deliver sufficient weapons to Sunni tribes willing to fight ISIS.

Meanwhile, Shiite militia leaders describe the Tikrit offensive as revenge for a massacre by ISIS in June of mostly Shiite Iraqi troops. And more recently, Abadi has raised concerns among human-rights monitors about reprisals against civilians by saying there is "no neutral party" in Tikrit, and that residents who do not side with attacking forces would be considered ISIS supporters.

The Tikrit operation "underlines the Obama administration's ill-advised dependence on Iran in an under-resourced Iraq strategy," according to the Post.

By allowing Iran to take the military lead in Tikrit and other parts of Iraq, "the United States might speed the destruction of the Islamic State," the liberal-leaning newspaper concluded.

"But the administration is also risking the undoing of all the work that has been done since last summer to prevent Iraq from fragmenting along sectarian lines — and it is allowing Iran to take another step toward replacing the terrorist regime with its own malevolent hegemony."

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Under President Barack Obama, U.S. commanders are taking a relatively upbeat view of Iranian involvement in the Iraqi military's campaign to retake the city of Tikrit from ISIS, which captured it last summer.
US, Iraq, ISIS, Tikrit, iran, shiite, sunnis
393
2015-22-06
Friday, 06 March 2015 12:22 PM
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