Iraq begrudgingly asks U.S. for help in battle of Tikrit

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- While the U.S. is backing Sunni Arabs in Yemen, in Iraq it is fighting on the same side as Shiite militias who've been helping the Iraqi Army try to kick ISIS out of Tikrit. U.S.-led airstrikes targeted ISIS vehicles, heavy weapons and fighting positions around the city, which was captured by the extremists in June.

The strikes were requested by Iraq's government -- after Iraqi leaders earlier said they didn't need U.S. help to win back the city. Instead Iraq turned to military advisers from Iran to help its fighting force of more than 20,000 men -- many of them from Shiite Muslim militiamen with Iranian links.

Battle for Tikrit a major test of Iraq's ability to defeat ISIS

A condition of the U.S. strikes is that the militias go home. Just outside Tikrit two weeks ago an Iraqi general -- Bahaa al-Azawi -- confidently told us that victory was days away.

"We got the ability, we got the capability to defeat terrorism, and push them away from Iraq," al-Azawi said at the time.

But the Tikrit offensive stalled -- even though one senior Iraqi politician told us ISIS may have only 20 fighters left in the city.

"There are very few. They're using snipers, and booby trapped buildings," said Saad al-Muttalibi.

Al-Muttalibi admits that Iraq's army is feeble - despite the $20 billion spent by America to train and equip it.

"I think the American money was very badly spent by the Americans," he said. "The Americans produced for us a very weak, disorganized army filled with corruption that fell within the first battle."

The U.S.-led airstrikes may help win back Tikrit. But this drawn out battle -- despite Iraqi forces vastly outnumbering ISIS militants-- does not bode well for Iraq fight in the rest of the country.