3 March 2015 By Nafiseh Kohnavard BBC Persian, Beirut
As Iraqi and Shia militias try to recapture the city of Tikrit from Islamic State (IS), the key role of Iran in the campaign is becoming clearer.
Shia militia sources in Iraq have confirmed that Gen Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force is personally taking part in leading the operation. Tikrit, 150km (95 miles) north of Baghdad, has been occupied by IS for more than eight months and an offensive to recapture it was declared by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday. The Iraqi army and security forces along with Shia militia groups who call themselves Popular Mobilisation units are pushing into Tikrit from several directions. As sources on the ground have told BBC Persian, a number of IRGC officers were involved at a command level before the operation was officially launched. Iranian authorities are yet to comment officially but Iran's Fars news agency, considered to be very close to the Revolutionary Guards, has extensively reported on the role of Gen Soleimani in the operation.