MESOP : JOINT FORCES FOR PEACE & DEMOCRACY = OBAMA & THE MULLAHS – America & Iran ‘taking part in joint military operations in Iraq’

The Telegraph UK 25 March 2015 – Officials admit US providing intelligence from air to Iran-led attack on Tikrit – The United States is taking part in joint military operations with Iran, admitting it is providing aerial surveillance over the current battle for Tikrit.The assault on Isil-held Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s home town in Iraq, has stalled in recent days after initial success.

Troops loyal to the Baghdad government, along with Iran-backed Shia militia and some Sunni tribesmen, have surrounded Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters in Saddam’s old palace complex and one other part of the city, but have been unable to make further progress.

The attack has been openly master-minded by an Iranian general, Qassem Suleimani, head of the internationally-focused Al Quds division of the Revolutionary Guard, who has been photographed on the front lines.

An official from the US-led coalition operating air strikes against Isil in Iraq and Syria confirmed to the Reuters news agency that it was now providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance from the air to support the attack.

The United States is also said to be awaiting an imminent formal request for the coalition to join in military operations directly from the air, which it would be likely to grant.

The collapse of the Iraqi army in the face of Isil’s summer onslaught last year sent panic not only through Baghdad but also its two major allies.

Iran has committed itself to supporting Iraq’s majority Shia population and important shrines, while the United States has a vested interest in preserving a state re-established at the cost of many lives after the 2003 invasion.

Despite years of hostility between them, they have therefore found themselves on the same side of the war against Isil. This came to the fore as the fight-back began, when Iraqi forces backed by the Shia militia re-took the town of Amerli after previous aerial bombardment by the coalition, in which the US is playing the heaviest role.

However, this is the most significant example of direct collaboration between US forces and the militias, with their Iranian advisers.

The sight of American jets effectively acting as an air force for Iranian regional interests will further alarm critics at home and in the Arab Sunni world already looking nervously at a possible rapprochement between the two old foes after a possible deal on Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Gen Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, estimated that of the forces attacking Tikrit, 18,000 were Shia militiamen, compared to just 3,000 members of the regular army, and 1,000 Sunni fighters.

The attack began on March 2, and made good ground in the first week. Now, however, it has come to a halt.

There are also signs of division within the Iraqi government on whether to call on American aid.

Last week, a senior Iraqi general said he had requested the ministry of defence put in a formal request for air support, though that has not yet been forthcoming.

But Hadi al-Ameri, head of the Badr Organisation, the leading Shia militia in the fight, and a government minister, said that American support was unnecessary and accused those in the army calling for it of being “weaklings”.