Iraqi request for U.S. airstrikes in Tikrit 'imminent'

More than 30,000 Iraqi soldiers and Shia militiamen are being stopped from taking the city of Tikrit by, it is believed, less than 500 Islamic State fighters.  The Iraqi army has been stalled on the outskirts of the town for ten days, and they appear to be flummoxed about what to do next.

The U.S. has so far refused to take part in the operation.  But the Iraqi government is readying a request for U.S. air power to strike Islamic State positions in the center of town to support an advance by the army.

Reuters:

Iraqi military commanders had asked for air strikes, while the Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias had publicly rejected the U.S. role in the campaign to retake the jihadist bastion.

Faced with the deadlock, the Iraqi government had called a halt to most operations a week ago, citing concerns about civilian and military casualties.

But Massoum made clear that the Iraqi government had decided to ask for the U.S.-led alliance's air support in the battle.

"The Iraqi government along with residents of the area wanted an active contribution from the international coalition... The Iraqi government alone decides and no other force decides," Massoum, a veteran Kurdish politician who became Iraq's president last summer, said.

He also alluded to the United States' previous hesitation to participate in battles alongside Iranian-supported Shi'ite armed factions and their Iranian advisers.

"If there were any kind of hesitation in the position of the coalition to support the (Iraqi) army and volunteers in Tikrit," Massoum said. "It seems now that this sensitivity has ended. Of course, the participation of the coalition will have an impact."

A senior Western diplomat told Reuters on Tuesday the Iraqi government was on the verge of requesting U.S.-led air strikes, and that the international community was ready to accept.

The president said the timing of the air strikes will be determined by Iraqi and coalition military experts.

"The experts decide whether this needs one week, less or more," Massoum told Reuters.

He emphasized that the strikes would avoid the civilian populations despite Islamic State's attempts to use civilians as human shields and clearly target its fighting positions.

Even with precision munitions, there are going to be civilian deaths.  The Iraqi government will be relieved that the civilians will not be killed as a result of their actions.

That's why this request is a trap designed to make the United States out to be the villain.  The Shia militias and their Iranian masters want a frontal assault, civilian casualties be damned.  Air strikes by the U.S. that clear the way for them will allow everybody on the ground in Tikrit to blame the U.S. for killing innocents – including our friends the Iranians.

The Iraqi army got themselves in this mess. Let them get out of it on their own.

More than 30,000 Iraqi soldiers and Shia militiamen are being stopped from taking the city of Tikrit by, it is believed, less than 500 Islamic State fighters.  The Iraqi army has been stalled on the outskirts of the town for ten days, and they appear to be flummoxed about what to do next.

The U.S. has so far refused to take part in the operation.  But the Iraqi government is readying a request for U.S. air power to strike Islamic State positions in the center of town to support an advance by the army.

Reuters:

Iraqi military commanders had asked for air strikes, while the Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias had publicly rejected the U.S. role in the campaign to retake the jihadist bastion.

Faced with the deadlock, the Iraqi government had called a halt to most operations a week ago, citing concerns about civilian and military casualties.

But Massoum made clear that the Iraqi government had decided to ask for the U.S.-led alliance's air support in the battle.

"The Iraqi government along with residents of the area wanted an active contribution from the international coalition... The Iraqi government alone decides and no other force decides," Massoum, a veteran Kurdish politician who became Iraq's president last summer, said.

He also alluded to the United States' previous hesitation to participate in battles alongside Iranian-supported Shi'ite armed factions and their Iranian advisers.

"If there were any kind of hesitation in the position of the coalition to support the (Iraqi) army and volunteers in Tikrit," Massoum said. "It seems now that this sensitivity has ended. Of course, the participation of the coalition will have an impact."

A senior Western diplomat told Reuters on Tuesday the Iraqi government was on the verge of requesting U.S.-led air strikes, and that the international community was ready to accept.

The president said the timing of the air strikes will be determined by Iraqi and coalition military experts.

"The experts decide whether this needs one week, less or more," Massoum told Reuters.

He emphasized that the strikes would avoid the civilian populations despite Islamic State's attempts to use civilians as human shields and clearly target its fighting positions.

Even with precision munitions, there are going to be civilian deaths.  The Iraqi government will be relieved that the civilians will not be killed as a result of their actions.

That's why this request is a trap designed to make the United States out to be the villain.  The Shia militias and their Iranian masters want a frontal assault, civilian casualties be damned.  Air strikes by the U.S. that clear the way for them will allow everybody on the ground in Tikrit to blame the U.S. for killing innocents – including our friends the Iranians.

The Iraqi army got themselves in this mess. Let them get out of it on their own.