Tikrit Operation: US Playing the Sectarian Card


General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says he is confident Iraq will defeat the “Sunni militants” in Tikrit, northwest of Baghdad.

The top US military officer also says he will press Baghdad to avoid sectarian fallout once the Iranian-backed operation to dislodge ISIL from the city concludes. First things first:

1. The death cult’s members are Salafi and Takfiri militants – not Sunni militants. ISIL, which has purportedly tied the knots with al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula and Boko Haram in Nigeria, believes they have monopoly over Islam and that 1.5 billion Shia-Sunni Muslims are all apostates. Their medieval butchery campaign is to be understood in these terms.

2. The Iraqi army and allied Sunni-Shia irregular troops, backed by Iranian military advisors, training, aircraft, drones, heavy artillery, surveillance and intelligence will soon retake Tikrit. They have already liberated other towns. The ongoing offensive, although complex, is a cakewalk.

3. It is the United States and its coalition that have ripped open old wounds to revive bitter divisions, both real and imagined, between Sunni and Shia. From their tribal stronghold of Riyadh, the Saudis have always used sectarianism as an excuse to send troops to Bahrain to prevent the very unrest they are fomenting. Iraq is in the know. That’s why the US and its coalition are not part of the Tikrit operation. These liberators are bad news for any community. Any doubters should ask Libya.

4. General Dempsey is right to suggest the operation is more about what follows. But he is wrong to claim it is less about how the military aspect of it goes. Trying to recapture Tikrit first makes sense. It is one of the biggest cities held by ISIL. The liberation will shorten the supply line between Baghdad and Mosul – with a much closer jumping-off point for going to Mosul.

5. The operation is not just about Iraq though. It’s also about Syria. Once fully liberated, Iraq will pave way for liberation of Syria. The Pentagon officials are way out of line to suggest the ongoing progress has no strategic importance.

6. What follows is important too. Lest there be any doubt, once liberated, the local population will be allowed to continue to live its life the way it wants to, and can come back to their homes. What follows the Tikrit operation is this: Reconstruction, good governance, inclusivity and political partnership.

Despite the grim assessments – tall concrete barriers placed at various entry points along with booby traps, car bombs, human shields, and mortar/artillery positions to make it difficult to advance – the Iraqis will win the battle of “One Big IED”. They will also dislodge the Salafi-Takfiri militants with minimum casualties.

The Pentagon officials and military experts have entered a period of particular gloom and isolation. They can only sit and watch because they are no longer secure in their positions. Their argument that there will be wide-scale ethnic cleansing is complete rubbish.

Iran’s military advisors and Iraq’s armed forces have no time to waste in Tikrit and Mosul. After re-establishing the sovereign borders of Iraq, they will go for the big fish: Liberation of Syria and re-establishment of political sovereignty, inclusivity and partnership within those borders – without US involvement. After all, this is their surge.



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