US ‘knew about Iranian intervention in battle for Tikrit'

US ‘knew about Iranian intervention in battle for Tikrit'
Analysis: Iranian support was cleared with the US before the offensive against Islamic State group forces in Tikrit began, an official has claimed.
3 min read
11 March, 2015
Iranian solidiers are reportedly providing support for Iraqi fighters [Anadolu]

Hundreds of fighters from Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Basij forces have reportedly been deployed in Tikrit, Anbar, and areas west and north of Baghdad.

They are understood to be equipped with their full military gear, including heavy weapons and medium to long-range artillery. The fighters are said to be providing support for Iraqi government forces and pro-government militias.

Previously, Iranian forces deployed in Iraq did not number more than a few dozen in the governorates of Diyala and Babel.

By contrast, reports now indicate there are between 2,000 and 3,000 Iranian troops active in a number of Iraqi regions, their presence having come to light much more clearly several days ago, with the early hours of the Iraqi government offensive on Tikrit, the capital of Salahuddin governorate.

International criticism

Iranian fighters are providing support for Iraqi government forces and pro-government militias.

The Iranian military presence has provoked Iraqi and even international criticism, including from US officials.

However, according to a prominent government minister, it should have come as a surprise to no one.

"Iranian forces entered Iraq with the prior knowledge of the US and the international coalition war room in the Green Zone in Baghdad," he told al-Araby.

"Abadi had notified them [the US] officially three days before the start of the offensive on Tikrit," added the minister, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to speak on the issue.

"The Americans did not show any opposition or reservation on the involvement of Iranians to fight IS [the Islamic State group]."

He added, "what we hear today from some US officials about their concern regarding this intervention is very odd, since they were the first to know about it".

The source said that Abadi had made sure to get the consent of the US before the battle began. The source said the US told Abadi the following day that it was an Iraqi affair, and that Iraq was free to decide accordingly:

"The international coalition provided air cover for the offensive forces in the first four hours, but stopped after the Iranians arrived with their weapons in the vicinity of Tikrit, where the Iraqi government forces and militias were stationed."

The source said the Iraqi air force, despite its limited capabilities, took over bombing IS positions and rocket positions.

Heavy casualties

Abadi made sure to get the consent of the US to the Iranian request to participate in the battle of Tikrit.

According to the Iraqi minister, Iran lost a large number of troops in the past ten days following battles in Iraq.

He also stressed that Abadi's agreement with the Iranians requires them to withdraw from Iraq after IS is weakened or degraded sufficiently, in which case the radical jihadist group would have become a low-level insurgency "with no control over Iraqi geography", as the source said.

The Iraqi minister claimed that Abadi was not "comfortable" with the Iranian intervention, but stressed that the prime minister was coming under huge pressure from pro-Iranian militias and parties.

The minister also said that the prime minister had met with Sunni ministers and leaders on Monday to "reassure them" about the Iranian intervention.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.