A little over a decade ago the United States was at war with Iraq, but now Iraq is facing a common enemy as the majority of the world. This enemy’s name is ISIS. Since last June, ISIS forces have used the system of palaces built by Saddam as their base of operations for the area. Over the past several days Iraqi security forces and Shi’ite militia have pushed their way into Tikrit and reclaimed a large area from Islamic state fighters. Thus far, the Tikrit offensive has been successful. The estimated force that has been put together in recent weeks for the Tikrit offensive is said to be over 30,000 fighters. These fighters are made up of different forces within Iraq, the vast majority being Shiite militia.
While ISIS still holds control over multiple districts throughout the center of Tikrit as well as the presidential palace, all forces have been assembled to get in the fight of taking their country back from ISIS. Tikrit is only the first city of many that need to be reclaimed from ISIS, but one city put back into the hands of her people is a good start at eliminating the ISIS threat from Iraq. Should Tikrit again come under control of the Iraqi government, the next strategic city to be taken is Mosul. This will prove to be an altogether different battlefront being that Mosul is ten times larger than Tikrit.
Though the Tikrit offensive has proven to be a success thus far, ISIS is only part of the problem in the common man’s eyes. The friends and family of over 1,000 executed Shi’ite soldiers place blame on corrupt Iraqi officials and Sunni tribal leaders as well. With videos that have surfaced depicting Iraqi security forces engaging in horrific acts as disgusting as any committed by ISIS, the general public of Iraq is torn regarding what needs to happen to set their country on a properly policed path.
Recently videos of 12 year olds being shot in the streets after being accused of working with ISIS have been circulating social networking sites. There have also been reports of civilians being beheaded by Iraqi security forces, their heads being placed on the hoods of American made Humvees as they drive around. These videos have reportedly been filmed over the past ten days since the effort to retake Tikrit has begun. With atrocities such as this being perpetrated by the forces who are being sent to eliminate ISIS, the world awaits to see if these are signs of issues to come in the future.
Along with Iraqi citizens joining the fight for Tikrit, Iranian Shi’ite forces have also been contributing manpower and the use of long-range assault weapons such as mortars to the Tikrit offensive. Because of this, Shi’ites are most likely to take control of Tikrit once the offensive has concluded successfully.
Another concern regarding Tikrit is whether or not Shi’ite militia forces will take revenge on the Sunni population of the area for a part of the executions that have taken place over the last year. With various groups in Iraq already having tension between one another, a retaliation from the soon to be in control Shi’ite militia forces could be the straw that breaks the camels back. A civil war between Shi’ites and Sunni populations is not far from being possible. This is why once Tikrit is again under the control of the Iraqi government, the occupation will become an important testing ground for sectarian forces to get along with one another. Should the Shi’ites begin to act in anger towards the Sunni, this offensive may have created separate but equal troubles for the Iraqi people.
By Benjamin Johnson
Photo by Jon Cupp – Flickr License