U.S.-led warplanes launched airstrikes against the ISIS in Tikrit on Wednesday evening, as officials hoped to take the reins back from Iranians in the fight against the terrorist organization.
The airstrikes in Tikrit – ordered by President Obama on Wednesday – mark a significant military strategy. Iranian-backed militias had previously lead the fight in Tikrit, but have agreed to step aside so Iraqi ground forces and the U.S. can move in. The U.S. had previously shied from teaming up with Iranians on a military operation.
U.S. military officials believe taking on a more prominent role in Tikrit will help them regain their fading influence in the country and limit Iranian influence, after their Shiite-backed militias struggled to retake the city from a small number of Islamic State militants who remain holed up there after several weeks.
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Officials hope that the U.S. and Iraqi teams will eventually retake Mosul from ISIS forces, though they admit the troops fighting in Tikrit wouldn’t be enough to take the largest city the Islamic State controls and any such battle would be months away at best.
“These strikes are intended to destroy ISIL (ISIS) strongholds with precision, thereby saving innocent Iraqi lives while minimizing collateral damage to infrastructure,” said Lt. Gen. James L. Terry, commanding general of a U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, in a statement. “This will further enable Iraqi forces under Iraqi command to maneuver and defeat ISIL in the vicinity of Tikrit.”
The operation comes amid U.S-led talks with Iran over their nuclear program, which has prompted international and domestic fury with Israel and many Republican lawmakers emphatically protesting any deal that would allow Iran to continue any kind of nuclear research program and the U.S. maintaining that they can negotiate a deal that would keep the country from obtaining a bomb.