The US has failed to live up to its promises to help Iraq fight Islamic State extremists, unlike the "unconditional" assistance being given by Iran, the commander of Iraq’s powerful Shiite militias alleged yesterday.
Iraqi forces entered Tikrit for the first time Wednesday from the north and south.
Yesterday, they waged fierce battles to secure the northern neighborhood of Qadisiyya and lobbed mortar shells and rockets into the city center, still in the hands of IS militants. Iraqi military officials have said they expect to reach central Tikrit in two to three days.
The Iranian-backed Shiite militias have played a crucial role in regaining territory from the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State group, supporting Iraq’s embattled military and police forces.
An Iraqi government official told The Associated Press that Iran has sold Baghdad nearly USD 10 billion in arms and hardware, mostly weapons for urban warfare like assault rifles, heavy machine-guns and rocket launchers. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
In November, President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 more US troops to bolster Iraqi forces, which could more than double the total of American forces in Iraq to 3,100. The Pentagon has made a spending request to Congress of USD 1.6 billion, focusing on training and arming Kurdish and Iraqi forces.
According to a Pentagon document prepared in November, the US is looking to provide an estimated USD 89.3 million in weapons and equipment to each of the nine Iraqi brigades.
The US-led coalition of eight countries has launched more than 2,000 airstrikes in Iraq alone since August 2014, and the US is also hitting the militant group from the air in Syria.
Iraqi and US officials have acknowledged the role airstrikes have played in rolling back the militants, saying the air campaign was an essential component in victories at the Mosul Dam, in Amirli, and more recently, in the crucial oil refining town of Beiji.
But the US is not taking part in the operation in Tikrit, with US officials saying they were not asked by Iraq to participate.