U.S.-led coalition warplanes launch their first airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Tikrit. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
U.S.-led coalition warplanes launched their first airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Tikrit on Wednesday (March 25), officials said, coming off the sidelines to aid Iraqi forces fighting alongside Iran-backed Shi'ite militia on the ground. U.S. Department of Defense video shows coalition airstrikes on an IS compound and on an IS-controlled bridge near Tikrit. The decision to give air support to the Tikrit campaign pulls the United States into a messy battle that puts the U.S.-led coalition, however reluctantly, on the same side of a fight as Iranian-backed militia in a bid to support Iraqi forces and opens a new chapter in the war. It also appeared to represent at least a tacit acknowledgment by Baghdad that such airpower was necessary to wrest control of the hometown of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from Islamic State fighters, after its attempts to go it alone stalled. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Iraqi forces would prevail with the support of "friendly" countries and the international coalition, including arms, training and aerial support. Reuters first reported the U.S.-led coalition's expected entry into the Tikrit campaign, disclosed by Iraq's president in an interview and later confirmed by a U.S. official. It has been carrying out strikes elsewhere in Iraq since August. A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said American warplanes and aircraft from allied nations were striking up to a dozen targets in Tikrit, selected after coalition surveillance flights. A second U.S. official stressed that Washington in no way would coordinate with the Iranian-backed militia or seek to empower them in Iraq, even if those fighters might share the same narrow tactical objective as Iraqi forces in Tikrit.