Anonymous US government figures have confirmed what Iranian backed militias in Iraq have been claiming – the Israeli Air Force (IAF) recently struck multiple targets within Iraq itself. At least three Shia militia operated munitions dumps have been destroyed in mysterious explosions over the last month. The unnamed US government officials stated that one of the first attacks, a 19 July strike on a target in Amirli which allegedly housed both Iranian and Hezbollah personnel, was conducted by Israel with suspicions that later similar strikes were also the work of the Israelis.
The Shia Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF or Hashd al-Shaabi) are overtly and covertly supported by Iran with Iraq also seen as a pipeline to Syria for both the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and their Quds Force, and the Lebanon based Hezbollah Shia terrorist group which Iran supplies. The PMF have been acknowledged and supported by the Iraqi government since 2014 and contributed significantly to efforts to eliminate Islamic State in Iraq.
Claims of Israeli involvement were initially largely dismissed as Israel is viewed as something of a boogeyman in Iraq but as the mysterious explosions continued, the involvement of a state actor became increasingly likely. An Iraqi investigation of an explosion in Baghdad itself on 15 August, concluded that the target, a munitions storage facility holding an unknown type of likely Iranian supplied long range rockets, was struck by a “drone strike” according to reporting by the Associated Press. It is also the first time that Israel has struck targets in Iraq since the famous 1981 Operation Opera which saw IAF F-16As successfully bomb Saddam Hussein’s fledgling nuclear reactor facility to the south of Baghdad.
The strikes may drive the Shia dominated Iraqi government further into the hands of Iran and threatens US and Coalition Forces based in Iraq and neighboring Syria supporting operations against Islamic State remnants. The Grand Ayatollah Kazem Haeri issued an edict stating; “I declare it is forbidden for any American military force or its ilk to remain in Iraq under any pretext: whether for military training and advising, or for counter-terrorism.” Haeri is known to be intimately involved in guiding and supporting PMF militias in Iraq.
Iran may have already attempted a revenge strike against Israeli with the IDF releasing a statement on 25 August that; “We just prevented a pending, large-scale attack of multiple killer drones on Israel by striking Iranian Quds Force operatives and Shiite Militia targets in Syria.” Early reports indicate that the IAF struck multiple targets overnight near the Syrian capital, Damascas.