Taking Tikrit


And now for some (hopefully) good news:

KIRKUK: Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded militant positions in and around Tikrit on Monday in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group’s main strongholds.

Government forces have been working their way north in recent months, notching up key victories against IS but Tikrit, which has resisted them several times, is their toughest target yet.

Building on recent successes, commanders voiced hope that the broadest operation since IS overran swathes of the country last June would be a step towards the liberation of Mosul, the militants’ main hub in Iraq.

“Security forces are advancing on three main fronts towards Tikrit, Ad-Dawr (to the south) and Al-Alam (to the north),” a senior army officer on the ground told AFP by telephone.

The operation began in early morning after being announced by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi the previous evening.

New Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is far less sectarian than Nouri al-Maliki was, and has brought back many Sunni officers Maliki had previously sacked for the crime of being Sunni. So the Iraqi Army will probably perform much better now than it did last year in Mosul, where an entire division more or less quit the field before the “might” of ISIS thugs.

The real prize remains Mosul however.