Many Iraqis resent what they see as American squeamishness about the militias, which by all accounts have been crucial to holding back the Islamic State after regular army units fled its assault.
“Americans consider us a militia that does not represent the government, while we are defending the country and helping the government,” said Mueen al-Kadhimy, a leader in the Badr Organization, a prominent militia. “We are the people of Iraq"
The Battle of Tikrit is expected to be a tough slog for Iraq and the Iran-led coalition against ISIL, without U.S.-led coalition tactical air power.
By rejecting U.S. plans to move immediately on Mosul and opting instead to move against Tikrit with the help of Iranian Revolutionary Guard units and without the benefit of U.S. air support, the Baghdad government is sending a not so subtle message to the White House that it will accept American aid only on its own terms and consistent with its own political agenda.
While there are sound military reasons for moving on Tikrit first as part of a broader campaign to retake Mosul, the Baghdad's government underlying strategy is being shaped by its political agenda with its Sunni citizens, and the broader issue of Shia-Sunni political relations in Iraq, rather than purely military considerations.