U.S. air raids in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit began last Wednesday, March 25, in order to help the Iraqi government regain control of the city from ISIS forces. However, despite having a common enemy, Iranian-led Shiite militias assisting the Iraqi military have thus far opposed the U.S. military intervention in Tikrit. Though U.S. military assistance was specifically requested by the official Iraqi military, three Shiite militia groups have boycotted fighting on the frontlines because of the U.S. airstrikes, some militiamen even threatening “to attack any Americans they found.” A spokesman for Asaib Ahl al-Haq, one of these three withdrawing militia groups, mentioned their distrust in the American-led coalition, citing the fact that in the past America has “targeted [their] security forces and dropped aid to ISIS by mistake”.
Seeing as one of the preconditions for the U.S. to get involved in Tikrit was the withdrawal of the Iranian-led militias, the boycott by the three groups came as no disappointment to Washington. Nonetheless, their departure from combat has raised the question of whether the Iraqi troops can persist in successfully fighting without them or if they will be left short-handed by the vowed withdrawal of thousands of militia volunteers. As of Saturday, however, there has reportedly been no rush in withdrawing Shiite militias from battle, nor have Iraq’s forces been “ in any hurry” to advance on the ground in Tikrit in spite of the American-led airstrikes and new subsequent advantage against ISIS.
Marlyse Vieira ’17