In response to what could soon be a big headache for Israeli PM Netanyahu and US “military advisors” to Baghdad, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman indicated on Monday that it could launch air strikes on suspected Iranian military assets in Iraq, as it has widely done in war-torn Syria, Reuters said.
Last week we reported that according to Reuters, Iran had transferred short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the last several months. This revelation comes as tensions between Washington and Tehran are at their highest point in years as aggressive sanctions continue crippling Iran’s economy, and after threats and counter-threats over Tehran laying claim to the vital Strait of Hormuz oil waterway over the past weeks, through which one-third of the world’s oil passes.
Israel views Iran’s regional expansion as dangerous for its well-being, and has frequently launched air strikes in Syria to thwart any Iranian forces defending Damascus in the war.
“We are certainly monitoring everything that is happening in Syria and, regarding Iranian threats, we are not limiting ourselves just to Syrian territory. This also needs to be clear,” Lieberman told reporters Monday.
Explicitly asked if this included new operations in Iraq, Lieberman answered: “I’m saying we will handle any Iranian threat, no matter where it comes from. We are maintaining the right to act… and any threat or anything else that comes up is dealt with.”
Reuters said there was no response from the government of Iraq – which is technically at war with Israel – nor from the Pentagon, which oversees US military operations in the country.
The report cited several unnamed Iranian, Iraqi and Western officials who said that several dozen rockets capable of hitting Israel and Tehran’s Sunni rival Saudi Arabia had been deployed with Iran’s Shiite groups in Iraq. It added that Iran was working to provide its Iraqi proxy armies with missile manufacturing facilities, and training to local militia members in operating the new missile systems.
On Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that he was “deeply concerned” by the reported Iranian missile transfer. “If true, this would be a gross violation of Iraqi sovereignty and of UNSCR 2231. Baghdad should determine what happens in Iraq, not Tehran,” he said referring to a United Nations Security Council Resolution endorsing the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran. The Trump admin abandoned that agreement in May, citing Iran’s ballistic missile projects, said Reuters.
Deeply concerned about reports of #Iran transferring ballistic missiles into Iraq. If true, this would be a gross violation of Iraqi sovereignty and of UNSCR 2231. Baghdad should determine what happens in Iraq, not Tehran.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) September 1, 2018
Iran’s missile deployment in Iraq would be intended to increase its missile capacity in the region, and to retaliate against any Western or Arab attacks on its territory, as the threat of an upcoming war grows.
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Iran on Saturday denied the report. “The lie disseminated by some media on shipment of Iran-made missiles to Iraq is totally irrelevant and unfounded,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said.
“Such news comes merely to cause panic among countries in the region and is in line with their policy to spread Iranophobia,” Qasemi said.
At the end of the conference, Liberman also reiterated his previously stated opposition to ongoing negotiations being moderated by Egypt and the United Nations for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel are unlikely to succeed because Israel says the current blockade is in place to stop weapons and other military assets from entering the Strip.
“I know exactly what’s going on, I’m aware of the negotiations but I’m not involved in that, I don’t believe in it,” Liberman said. “We need to understand that negotiations, whether with [the Palestinian Authority in] Ramallah or with [Hamas in] Gaza, won’t lead us anywhere. All the negotiations have led us to dead ends.”
He maintained Israel should act unilaterally both in Gaza and the West Bank “and mold the reality as we see fit.” And now it appears that Israel is preparing to launch military action in Iraq over reports from anonymous sources. What is more curious that these developments are taking place just before the US midterm election.