A top U.S. general says Iran's direct support for an Iraqi push to dislodge the Islamic State extremist group from the northern city of Tikrit could turn out to be "a positive thing" if it does not inflame sectarian tensions.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Iran and its proxies have been operating inside Iraq since 2004, but the Tikrit campaign signals a new level of involvement.
Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 3 that two-thirds of the force seeking to retake Tikrit is comprised of Iranian-based Shi'ite militia fighters. Iraqi government troops make up the other third.
Tikrit, the hometown of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, is a mainly Sunni city.
"If they perform in a credible way" and rid Tikrit of Islamic State control, "then it will, in the main, have been a positive thing in terms of the counter-ISIL campaign," Dempsey said.
With reporting by AP, Reuters and AFP