Anonymous U.S. officials are confirming that an attack against an Iranian munitions base in July was carried out by Israel. The attack is proof of a significant escalation in Israel’s campaign against Iranian military hegemony in the region.
The American officials said that Israel was behind the airstrike at an Iraqi Shiite militia base on July 19. The base was located in Amirli, in Iraq’s Salaheddin province in the northern part of the country. According to the Associated Press, the base also housed military advisors from Iran and Lebanon, which likely means they were probably members of Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist organization supported by Iran.
A munitions depot on the base was targeted, as well as the quarters for the military advisors. Two Iranian military commanders were reportedly killed in the attack. Iraqi Shiite militia authorities have openly declared that Israeli drones carried out the attack.
And while Israel hasn’t officially claimed the attack as theirs, they don’t seem to be denying it, either. For weeks, international speculation has been that the Jewish State was behind the attack, and in an interview on Russian television, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to confirm that assumption.
“I don’t give Iran immunity anywhere,” Netanyahu said, while accusing the Iranians of attempting to establish bases “against us everywhere,” which would include Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen.
When pressed if he meant that Israel was indeed operating in Iraq, Netanyahu said, “We act in many arenas against a country that desires to annihilate us. Of course, I gave the security forces a free hand and the instruction to do what is needed to thwart these plans of Iran.”
Israel last attacked a target inside Iraq in 1981 when, in a surprise raid known as Operation Opera, its air force took out a nuclear reactor under construction by the government of Saddam Hussein.
While it’s been awhile since Israel attacked targets inside of Iraq, the same cannot be said about it attacking Iranian targets in other countries. Israel has acknowledged that it has attacked hundreds of Iranian installations inside of neighboring Syria, where Iranian forces are entrenched, supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad in the ongoing civil war. Israel has publicly stated that they will not allow Iran — which the Israelis consider their most dangerous enemy — establish permanent military bases in Syria.
Including the July 19 attack, there have been at least three large explosions at Shiite militia bases in Iraq in the past month. Thus far, officials have only confirmed that the July 19 attack came from Israel.
Former Iraqi Premier Nouri al-Maliki, who previously headed the Iraqi government for eight years and now leads a powerful Shiite bloc in Iraqi parliament decried the attacks and issued a stern warning to Israel. In a statement he said that if Israel continues to attack targets in Iraq, the country “will transform into a battle arena that drags in multiple countries, including Iran.”
The very shaky Iraqi government has struggled to remain neutral between the United States and Iraq in ongoing saber rattling over the Strait of Hormuz and U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Israeli attacks in Iraq, even if they’re against Iranian installations, threaten the tenuous stability in Iraq. And it’s clear that at least some groups in Iraq hold the United States directly responsible for Israel’s actions.
“America is seeking to bring Iran under a siege in the region,” Iraqi Hezbollah spokesman Mohammad Muha-yi told al-Mayadeen TV. The spokesman further said that the group would hold the United States personally responsible for any more attacks inside Iraq, claiming that America would be playing a “behind-the-scenes role if such an attack happens.” Muha-yi also encouraged Baghdad to retaliate against any “Israeli aggression” in Iraq.
The United States currently maintains a force of approximately 5,000 troops in Iraq. It’s pretty clear that Iraqi Hezbollah wants them to leave. “Be sure that if the confrontation between us starts, it will only end with your [U.S.] removal from the region once and for all.”
Tough words from a terrorist group, though one has to wonder. Just why are 5,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq?
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