Iraqi Troops Move Against ISIS in Tikrit

Iraqi military forces, backed by allied Sunni and Shia fighters, launched a large-scale offensive (Reuters) to recapture Tikrit from ISIS control on Monday, according to Iraqi state TV. Nearly thirty thousand troops led attacks (Al Jazeera) on ISIS positions in Saddam Hussein’s hometown with support from Iraqi jets. Tikrit fell to ISIS last summer along with Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul and other surrounding Sunni areas. Meanwhile, U.S. officials signaled plans for a coordinated mission to retake Mosul in April or May; a victory (NYT) in Tikrit could accelerate plans for an operation to seize Mosul. Larger operations against ISIS in Iraq come after the group abducted hundreds of civilians in Syria and Iraq and made gains in Libya. Analysis :

“It won’t be easy, and it may not be quick. But retaking Mosul is an endeavor that is worth undertaking—and worth doing right. The Islamic State’s grip over Iraq’s second-largest city has been a symbol of the movement’s success. Mosul may be the one battle in Iraq that can decisively prove that the Islamic State is a losing cause,” write Michael Knights and Michael Pregent in Foreign Policy.

“The war against radical Islamic militancy is not our fight. It is a struggle among Muslims for the soul and the future of the Muslim world. In the end, only Muslims can determine the outcome. Make no mistake: We in the United States and the West have an important national security stake in that outcome. But we should not try to win on our own what only local forces can sustain, particularly when our effort to help only makes their success less likely,” argues Robert Grenier in the New York Times.

“The prolonged political crisis is already causing splits within Libya’s two main political blocs, and hard-line factions within both are agitating for more extreme action. ISIS may find willing recruits among these fringe radicals, as well as among foreign fighters from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which has been struggling to remain relevant. Still, an ISIS stronghold in Libya is hardly a fait accompli,” writes Geoffrey Howard in Foreign Affairs