The U.S.-led coalition battling the Islamic State group has begun surveillance flights over the northern Iraqi town of Tikrit, a senior coalition official said Tuesday, marking the first time the alliance has taken part in a major offensive there that is being spearheaded by Iranian-backed Shiite militias.

The official said the flights and intelligence sharing began Saturday and were requested by the Iraqi government. He declined to comment on whether the coalition was carrying out airstrikes, saying he cannot discuss current or future operations. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

Up to now the offensive to take back Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, has largely has been waged by Iraqi troops and Shiite militias advised by Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The coalition official declined to discuss whether U.S. forces were directly communicating with Iranians on the ground there. […]