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Iran Joins Fight for Saddam's Hometown

Revolutionary Guard puts boots on the ground around Tikrit
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2015 10:33 AM CST
Iran Joins Fight for Saddam's Hometown
In this image made from video, smoke rises from an explosion as Iraqi forces, Shiite militiamen, and Sunni tribal fighters battle ISIS militants for control of Tikrit, Iraq, Tuesday, March 3, 2015.   (AP Photo via AP video)

(Newser) – Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit is once again in focus, as Iran's Revolutionary Guard teams with Iraqi forces to retake it from ISIS, the Wall Street Journal reports. The head of the Revolutionary Guard's overseas arm is reportedly directing activity near the town as artillery, rockets, and drones support forces on the ground. The US isn't involved in this particular effort. "We are fully aware of the operation, but the Iraqis did not request our support for it," says a military spokesman. That's in large part because of Iran's efforts, US officials tell the Journal.

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Iranian and US forces have generally stayed away from each other in the battle against ISIS, which has held Tikrit for longer than eight months. Now, Iraqi forces and Shiite militias known as Popular Mobilization units are converging on the town, the BBC reports. Iran is supporting the militias, which the Journal calls "effective." The US has raised concerns about the possibility of tensions as the largely Shiite Iran fights in Sunni areas—but "to the degree they can carry out an offensive without inflaming sectarian tension and can dislocate [ISIS], it can be helpful," a US official says. The fighting could set the stage for a larger effort to retake Mosul, Iraq's second-biggest city. (Read more Iran stories.)

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