Tim Arango in the NYT reports that U.S commanders are concerned about the involvement of Iran and Iranian backed Shiite militias in the coming assault on Fallujah. Militia leaders see the Sunni population of the city as the enemy, not people they are rescuing.
On the outskirts of Falluja, tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers, police officers and Shiite militiamen backed by Iran are preparing for an assault on the Sunni city, raising fears of a sectarian blood bath. Iran has placed advisers, including its top spymaster, Qassim Suleimani, on the ground to assist in the operation.
Sunni members of Parliament are not happy about Suleimani's presence.The battle over Falluja has evolved into yet another example of how United States and Iranian interests seemingly converge and clash at the same time in Iraq. Both want to defeat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. But the United States has long believed that Iran’s role, which relies on militias accused of sectarian abuses, can make matters worse by angering Sunnis and making them more sympathetic to the militants.
Meanwhile, Kurdish forces have made advances near Mosul. U.S. forces have been observed near the battle front but the U.S. is not saying much about their involvement.
As he awaits release of the Chilcot report on the British role in the invasion of Iraq, Tony Blair continues to defend the 2003 invasion and says he will not necessarily accept the report's conclusions. The long-delayed inquiry is now set for release after the British referendum on continued membership in the European Union.