US Is Helping Iran Free Iraqi City of Tikrit
American airstrikes will assist Iranian-backed militias on the ground
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 25, 2015 7:38 PM CDT
A member of an Iraqi Shiite militant group called Imam Ali Brigades patrols in Tikrit.   (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

(Newser) – The US isn't exactly trumpeting the news, but it's now helping Iran in the fight to boot the Islamic State out of the Iraqi city of Tikrit. It goes like this: For the last few weeks, Iranian military advisers and Iranian-backed militias have been teaming up with Iraqi troops to wage a ground offensive against ISIS to retake the city. Things were going well at first, and the US was happy to stay out of the fight, but that changed when the ground offensive stalled, reports the New York Times. Hence, US warplanes began airstrikes against ISIS positions today, reports the AP, and the initiative is expected to last for days.

"Though expected for the better part of a week and unlikely to be coordinated with Iran’s proxies, the belated introduction of US combat aircraft above Tikrit has brought the Obama administration to an awkward point it has long dismissed: a tactical, if tacit, alliance with its greatest rival in the Middle East," writes Spencer Ackerman at the Guardian. Not that the US is anxious to talk about it: Reuters notes that the US commander of the coalition, Lt. Gen. James Terry, seemed to go out of his way to avoid naming Iran. The strikes will help "Iraqi forces under Iraqi command," he said. Both the AP and the BBC see the fight for Tikrit as a precursor to a much bigger fight down the road—the battle to recapture Mosul.