World View: Iraq’s Battle for Tikrit Reaches a Standstill, Humiliating Iran

The Associated Press

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Iraq’s battle for Tikrit reaches a standstill, humiliating Iran
  • Disorganization plagues Iraq’s soldiers assaulting Tikrit
  • Correction to yesterday’s report on France’s elections
  • Greece’s Tsipras visits Germany’s Merkel and demands reparations

Iraq’s battle for Tikrit reaches a standstill, humiliating Iran

Hadi Al-Amiri, head of Iraq's Badr Brigade of Shia militias, calls Iraq's army 'weaklings'
Hadi Al-Amiri, head of Iraq’s Badr Brigade of Shia militias, calls Iraq’s army ‘weaklings’

Iraq’s military operation to recapture the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) apparently stalled a week ago. The military operation, which began on March 2, comprise 10,000 troops from Iraq’s army, aided by 20,000 fighters from Shia militias, as well as special forces from Iran led by Iran’s legendary Al Qods Brigades chief, the Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

The plan was to take Tikrit within a week or so, and then move on to a much larger battle to capture Mosul. The Iraqi forces reached the outskirts of Tikrit and captured some neighboring villages, but were blocked from entering Tikrit, according to reports, by ISIS snipers and huge numbers of IEDs and bombs along the roads, causing hundreds of casualties.

There are a lot of reputations riding on a quick victory in Tikrit. At the beginning, the Iraqi soldiers dropped their arms and fled instead of fighting, and now some are saying that they are refusing to fight in Tikrit. A stalemate in Tikrit would be a major humiliation to Iran and to Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was expected to pull off a quick, brilliant victory, but who has now retreated to Tehran, according to reports. Finally, a stalemate would be an embarrassment to the Obama administration, which is counting on a Tikrit victory — or anything, anything, that might slow the continuing humiliation to the administration of seeing Iraq fall under the control of ISIS. Obama completely withdrew American forces, allowing ISIS to take control again, after president George Bush ejected al-Qaeda in Iraq with his “surge.”

In fact, with Baghdad, Tehran and Washington all facing humiliation from a potential stalemate in Tikrit, the only group that would look like a winner if the stalemate continues would be ISIS. BBC and Newsweek

Disorganization plagues Iraq’s soldiers assaulting Tikrit

Iraqi officials point out that the military operation only began three weeks ago, so even if the initial projections were optimistic, there is still plenty of time for victory in Tikrit.

However, fundamental problems were exposed last weekend in the Iraqi effort.

From the start of the operation, both Iraq and Iran had explicitly rejected any help for US and coalition forces, such as air strikes. However, last weekend, as the operation on Tikrit hit a brick wall, Iraqi General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, who commands the Iraqi army forces in the area, indicated that he favored asking the Americans for help: “Of course… the Americans have advanced equipment, they have AWACS (surveillance) aircraft.”

However, Hadi Al-Amiri, the head of the Badr Brigade of Iraq’s Shia militias, slammed al-Saadi’s remarks, saying:

Some of the weaklings in the army… say we need the Americans, while we say we do not need the Americans.

If you have one part of Iraq’s forces referring to the other part as “weaklings,” then at the very least you have low morale and no unified command. The hodge-podge of Iraqi forces conducting the assault on Tikrit may simply not be up to the job.

If the stalemate continues, then someone will have to reassess and throw more forces into the battle. These might come in the form of troops or airstrikes from Iran, or a request for troops and airstrikes from the American-led coalition. But there are too many reputations at stake for the situation in Tikrit to continue as it is. France24/Reuters and AFP and International Business Times

Correction to yesterday’s report on France’s elections

A reader pointed out that I made some mistakes in the details of France’s elections in yesterday’s report:

They were in fact departmental elections: regional elections are scheduled for next December. France using a two-round system, the important day is next Sunday when the second round will take place. Constitutionally, the most important is that we are for the first time electing a pair of two councilors (a man and a woman) for each canton. Politically, the important questions are “will the Front National for the first time get the presidency of a département?” and how many départements the Left will keep (Hollande is so unpopular nobody expects the Left to win).

Greece’s Tsipras visits Germany’s Merkel and demands reparations

Greece’s prime minister Alexis Tsipras visited German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday, and after the meeting there were smiles and handshakes and apparent good will.

However, at the post-meeting press conference, Tsipras raised the issue of payment of reparations as compensation for Nazi atrocities during World War II. Merkel answered sharply, “In the German government’s view, the issue of reparations is politically and legally closed.”

The disagreement comes during a major run on Greece’s banks, with 1.1 billion euros flowing out of Greek banks in the last three days alone. Greece has to pay pensions and government employees, and it’s believed that without an infusion of new bailout loans the country will go bankrupt early in April.

According to research by Der Spiegel, Greece may have a good case for demanding payments from the Germans. Besides possible compensation for Nazi atrocities, there may be payments due for forced loans that the Nazi occupiers extorted from Greece’s central bank beginning in 1941. By 1944, the forced loans may have totaled as much as 300 billion drachmas. The Greek currency suffered hyperinflation during WWII, so all in all, 300 billion drachmas may be worth something like $10 million, not really enough to solve Greece’s financial crisis. Greek Reporter and Guardian (London) and Der Spiegel

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Iraq, Hadi al-Amiri, Badr Brigade, Tikrit, Iran, Al Qods Brigads, Qassam Soleimani, Mosul, Abdulwahab al-Saadi, France, Front National, Greece, Alexis Tsipras, Germany, Angela Merkel
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