This past week, the prime minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, said security forces had successfully reached Tikrit. This was followed by a statement on Tuesday, when the headline “The commander in chief of the armed forces Haider al-Abadi announces the liberation of Tikrit entirely” flashed across the screen on a national news channel. Sources within the city claimed that this was not quite true, however, with one general in particular calling the announcement “premature at best”. ISIS indeed remains, and fighting in the city continues.
The prime minister corrected his statement later in the week to say that the center of the city had been taken as well as the east and west. Despite the slight exaggeration, this still marks the culmination of an ongoing four-week attack on the city by Iraq. ISIS having gained control in June, attacks against them began March 2nd with police, soldiers, and Iranian-led militiamen. Iraq fought for three weeks with help from the Iranian militia until asking for U.S. air support. The U.S. agreed but only on the condition that Iranian troops be withdrawn.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Washington worried that the Shiite militia in a Sunni-populated area would cause an increase in sectarian tension. U.S. officials deliberately used the situation to drive a wedge between Iran and Iraq but also to open up space for forces that — while very anti-ISIS — are not as heavily beholden to Iranian interests. Iran was rather upset about this exclusion, especially since they had not been able to take the city in the past. Yet despite this tension and hostility, former ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, claims that any U.S. action will not have any effect on nuclear discussions with Iran.
Tiffany Miller ’17