Iraq’s attack against ISIS in Tikrit catches U.S. ‘by surprise’

Nancy A. Youssef reports: 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. Over the weekend, an American-backed rebel group in Syria announced that it was dissolving, and joining an Islamist faction.

Then there was the unexpected battle for Tikrit. Over the weekend, a reported 30,000 troops and militiamen—mostly Shiites —stormed the Sunni dominated city of Tikrit, former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s hometown and the symbolic birthplace of his three decades of repressive practices against the majority Shiite population.

U.S. officials were largely left in the dark of the planning and timing of the operation, defense officials said. The Pentagon said Monday it was not conducting airstrikes in support of the Tikrit offensive because the Iraqi government did not ask for such help. [Continue reading…]

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