- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2015

The United States is now Iran’s air force.

U.S. planes Wednesday night began bombing targets in and around Tikrit, the battle for which is predominately being conducted by Iraqi Shiite militiamen trained, led and equipped by Iran and its special operations Quds Force.

U.S. Central Command announced the new airstrikes after the battle to retake Tikrit from the Islamic State had bogged down. Fighters for the terror group have infused the city with booby traps and snipers.

Without precise air power, the Shiites, joined by Iraqi regular army troops, had to find and defeat Islamic State terrorists on the ground, a much greater challenge. Now, with aerial surveillance and precision-guided missiles, bombs and cannons, Islamic State fighters can be found and killed much more efficiently.

The commander of the coalition assembled to evict the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, from Iraq downplayed Iran’s role.

“These strikes are intended to destroy ISIL strongholds with precision, thereby saving innocent Iraqi lives while minimizing collateral damage to infrastructure,” said Army Lt. Gen. James L. Terry. “This will further enable Iraqi forces under Iraqi command to maneuver and defeat ISIL in the vicinity of Tikrit.”

It marks the first time America is, in effect, providing close-air support for Iran, a country the U.S. has designated as the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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