Nancy A. Youssef writes: Forces loyal to Iran are threatening to break ISIS’s grip on the key Iraqi city of Tikrit. Officially, the American military isn’t helping these Shiite militias and Iranian advisers as they team up with Iraqi forces to hit the self-proclaimed Islamic State. But U.S. officials admit that American airstrikes are a major reason Iran’s proxies are advancing on Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown.
The U.S.-led air campaign has not only crippled ISIS’s ability to move freely. It’s also providing air cover for Iraqi troops and the Iranian forces fighting alongside of them. It is a perilous, yet unspoken, military alliance between the U.S. and its top regional foe that some said could lead to an ISIS defeat in the short term and ethnic cleansing of Sunni Iraqis in the long run.
“Like it or not, right now [the U.S. and Iran] are on the same side,” said Vali Nasr, dean of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and longtime Iranian expert.
U.S. officials have repeatedly stated their concerns about the sectarianism that could emerge even as the strategy now decisively helps one side, the Shiite, in the push to defeat ISIS.
But two U.S. officials concede that the effect of the airstrikes helps Shiite forces — while swearing that there is no strategy to help Iran. Rather, as one explained, “the goal is to provide Iraqi forces the operational space to take back territory.” [Continue reading…]