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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Iraq militia leader hails Iran’s support

 In a battlefield interview near Tikrit, where Iraqi forces are fighting to retake Saddam Hussein’s hometown from the militants of the so-called Islamic State, commander Hadi al-Amiri criticized those who “kiss the hands of the Americans and get nothing in return.”
Iraqi forces entered Tikrit for the first time Wednesday from the north and south. On Friday, they waged fierce battles to secure the 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 $10 billion in arms and hardware, mostly weapons for urban warfare like assault rifles, heavy machine-guns and rocket launchers. The official spoke on the 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 U.S. 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 $1.6 billion, focusing on training and arming Kurdish and Iraqi forces. According to a Pentagon document prepared in November, the U.S. is looking to provide an estimated $89.3 million in weapons and equipment to each of the nine Iraqi brigades.
The U.S.-led coalition of eight countries has launched more than 2,000 airstrikes in Iraq alone since August 2014, and the U.S. is also hitting the militant group from the air in Syria. Iraqi and U.S. 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 U.S. is not taking part in the operation in Tikrit, with U.S. officials saying they were not asked by Iraq to participate.
Al-Amiri, the Shiite militia commander who also is head of the Badr Organization political party, said that “help from Iran is unconditional.”
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