The news from Tikrit is that rather than fleeing into the desert (as I think the government was hoping), a few hundred Islamic State fighters have dug themselves into the downtown area, ready for a showdown. The government's commanders are acting a little like a dog that finally catches a mail truck-- now that they have the Daesh right where they want them, they aren't sure what to do about it. They have called a "pause," which they say is to organize their forces, bring up reinforcements and give civilians a chance to escape. Why they should need reinforcements when they already have a 50-1 advantage is a bit mysterious, but perhaps the volunteer militias that make up the bulk of their forces get worn out quickly in combat. They certainly have plenty of heavy weapons. Iran has supplied them with numerous truck-launched rocket systems that make the Pentagon nervous, because 1) they are notoriously inaccurate, and 2) the Iraqis don't know how to use them, which American officers worry is a recipe for lots of unnecessary civilian casualties. The rather lackadaisical nature of this offensive is confusing to those of us who grew up reading about World War II; can anyone imagine what Patton or Zhukov would have said if their men had "paused" and called for reinforcements in the face of 250-odd irregular infantry?
As an aside, I was a little disturbed to discover that the country providing the most foreign soldiers to the IS is Tunisia (1,500 to 3,000, according to the Times). Tunisia is the most successful state in North Africa, perhaps in the whole Arab world, with a functioning democracy that stands as the only lasting achievement of the Arab Spring. Tunisia's situation is really more than one can hope for most of the other countries in the region. So if even Tunisia's level of economic and political success is not enough to keep thousands of young men from joining the Islamic State, what would?