Mideast Iraq Islamic State

Top US general optimistic about outcome of Tikrit battle

In this Wednesday, March 4, 2015 photo, smoke rises as the Iraqi army, supported by volunteers, battles Islamic State extremists outside Tikrit, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq. Iranian-backed Shiite militias and Sunni tribes have joined Iraq's military in a major operation to retake Tikrit from the Islamic State group, while the U.S. led coalition has remained on the sidelines. (AP Photo)ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AP) — The one-two punch of Iranian-back militias and Iraqi government troops is likely to prevail in the unfolding battle for Tikrit, but it would not have been possible if U.S. airstrikes had not tied down Islamic State fighters elsewhere in northern Iraq, the top U.S. general said.

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