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By Ahmed Rasheed and Dominic Evans BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Thousands of Iraqi soldiers and Shi'ite militiamen sought to seal off Islamic State fighters in Tikrit and nearby towns on Tuesday, the second day of Iraq's biggest offensive yet against a stronghold of the radical Sunni Islamist militants. Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, who has helped coordinate Baghdad's counter-attacks against Islamic State since it seized much of northern Iraq in June, was overseeing at least part of the operation, witnesses told Reuters. His presence on the frontline highlights neighboring Iran's influence over the Shi'ite fighters who have been key to containing the militants in Iraq. In contrast the U.S.-led air coalition which has been attacking Islamic State across Iraq and Syria has not yet played a role in Tikrit, the Pentagon said on Monday, perhaps in part because of the high-level Iranian presence.
Israel's prime minister addresses the US Congress on Tuesday in an increasingly heated battle with the White House over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, as negotiations resume in Switzerland. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has attacked repeatedly the emerging Iran deal and is reportedly planning to unveil details to US lawmakers to show why he believes it poses a grave danger to Israel. "Netanyahu made all sorts of claims," he told Reuters on Monday. "This was going to result in Iran getting $50 billion worth of relief.