Iraqi security forces stand on their military vehicles in Tikrit March 27, 2015. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
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The battle for Tikrit has produced an important turnabout in the Iraqi campaign against extremists: Iranian-backed Shiite militias appear to have stalled there after three weeks of intense fighting, leading Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to request U.S. airstrikes to complete the mission. The Tikrit campaign appears to be the first significant overreach in Iraq by the Iranians and their field commander, Gen. Qasem Soleimani. As in other campaigns, the Shiite militias under his leadership fought hard but without the intelligence or precision weapons available to U.S.-backed Iraqi forces. As a result, the Shiite militias are said to have suffered heavy casualties.One sheikh in Karbala called for more unity among Iraqi forces; according to the New York Times, he also criticized the militias for carrying Shiite sectarian banners that would alienate the Sunni residents of Tikrit.Because Anbar is overwhelmingly Sunni, it will be harder for Soleimani and the Shiite militias to play a meddling role there.
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