Iraqi PM declares 'victory near' in Tikrit battle

Iraqi PM declares 'victory near' in Tikrit battle
Haider al-Abadi predicts "salvation" for IS-controlled city despite setbacks, withdrawals and Iraqi forces calling on US airstrikes for the first time.
2 min read
26 March, 2015
Abadi said the Iraqi flag would soon fly over Tikrit [Anadolu]
The Iraqi prime minister has announced the "victory is near" and the beginning of the final phase of the Tikrit battle against the Islamic State group.

In a telivised speech, Haider al-Abadi declared Iraq's flag "will be raised in Tikrit" and a final push to force the IS out of the town.

"Iraqi forces will defeat IS and eliminate its fighters," Abadi said. "The time has come for salvation and victory, and terrorism will no longer have a foothold in Salaheddin [province controlled by IS], which will return to our country."

However, his comments come after days of setbacks for Iraqi forces, who were for the first time forced to call on the US to launch air strikes against the militants - a move that led to three Iraqi militia groups to "resign" from the battle.

The battle for Tikrit launched earlier this month and touted by Baghdad as a wholly Iraqi-planned campaign to prove its forces could take on the IS. The group continues to hold the town. 

Abadi called on Iraqis not to be dragged into the plans of IS to exploit divisions in their opponents. 

During his visit to the Iraq forces' operations room, Abadi called on more coordination with the international anti-IS coalition, despite the protests of militias opposed to Washington.
     Iraqi forces will defeat IS and eliminate its fighters.

- Haider al-Abadi, Iraqi PM

Iran, a traditional opponent of the US, has also played an important role in the Tikrit offensive, and some Iraqi militias are suspected of being sponsored by Tehran.
According to Reuters, about 12 targets in Tikrit were targeted by US planes.

"We do not coordinate our operations in any way with Iran," stated US commander Lieutenant General James Terry, referring to the allegedly Iranian-backed Popular Mobilisation militias, which have led offensives against IS.
"These strikes are intended to destroy [IS] strongholds with precision, thereby saving innocent Iraqi lives while minimising collateral damage to infrastructure," Terry added.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.