Iraqi and Shia militia forces have been taking back ground from Islamic State, pushing the jihadist fighters out of much of the town of Tikrit.
But in a sign of Tehran’s growing military presence in the Iraq, Iranian weapons were a nearly ubiquitous sight in images and videos coming out of the offensive to take the mostly Sunni city.
Ever since Islamic State shocked the region with its capture of Mosul last summer, Iran has opened up its arsenals and flooded clients, proxies and friends in Iraq with arms and vehicles.
Now, as Iraqi forces have brushed off their American advisers during the push into Tikrit, Iranian weapons — and advisers — are helping to spread the Islamic Republic’s influence.
Iranian officials are hesitant to acknowledge an obvious military presence in Iraq, but Tehran’s weapons supplies aren’t exactly discreet. The shipmentsinclude conspicuous heavy weapons peculiar to Iran or with obvious Iranian markings.
Despite the official denials, Iran clearly isn’t concerned about evidence of its involvement in the conflict being so easy to spot.In August 2014, social media lit up with pictures purporting to show Iranian M-60 tanks crossing into Iraq from the border town of Khaneghein. Then in March, the open-source military blogger Oryx caught sight of an Iranian T-72S tank parading near the fighting in Tikrit.
Iran reportedly has up to 380 of the Shilden export variant of the T-72B tanks, which have explosive reactive armor.
Other heavy weapons making an appearance in Tikrit include an Iranian version of the BM-21 Grad multiple-launch rocket system, the Hadid. The Hadid, which fires 40 unguided rockets, is a product of Shahid Bagheri Industries, part of Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization.