Wednesday, August 21, 2019


Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, deputy chairman of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, announced on Wednesday that the US had allowed four Israeli aircraft to operate in Iraqi airspace and attack bases belonging to Shia militias, according to the independent Iraqi TV network Al Sumeria.

"We have accurate and confirmed information that this year, the Americans allowed four Israeli drones [into Iraq] via Azerbaijan to work within the US fleet to carry out sorties targeting Iraqi military headquarters," said al-Mohandes, adding that the militia holds US forces responsible for the targeting of PMF bases. 
The PMF also has maps and recording of all types of a US aircraft: when it took off and when it landed, and the number of hours it flew in Iraq, according to the deputy chairman. Al-Mohandes also claimed that US aircraft had carried out reconnaissance missions on PMF positions instead of on ISIS.

"As we unveil these details – and a forthcoming project for the physical elimination of a number of jihadist figures and supporters of the Popular Mobilization – we declare that the first and last responsible for what happened are the American forces," said al-Mohandes. 

"We have no choice but to defend ourselves and our headquarters with our existing weapons and to use more sophisticated weapons," added the PMF official. "We have waited so long for all our investigations to be thoroughly completed."

Al-Mohandes added that they will consider any foreign aircraft flying over our headquarters without the knowledge of the Iraqi government as hostile and will "deal with it accordingly," using "all means of deterrence" to prevent attacks on the headquarters.

Members of the Iraqi Hezbollah militia were killed and wounded during an aerial bombardment of a base by unidentified aircraft in the Saladin province north of Baghdad on Tuesday, according to Al Arabiya. 

The Iraqi Civil Defense reported that there were explosions at a munitions warehouse belonging to the al-Hashd ash-Sha’abi (PMF) at the Balad air base.

Iraqi Defense Minister Najah al-Shammari stated that there were no causalities in the incident, according to Al Mayadeen TV.

Iraqi parliament member Mohammed al-Baldawi also claimed that the explosion was caused by an airstrike. 

"We have become fully convinced that there is a systematic targeting of the military, especially the PMF," said al-Baldawi, according to Al Sumeria. 

The MP warned that American forces do not abide by the decisions of the Iraqi government and represent a threat to Iraq's sovereignty.

"Iraq lacks an independent air deterrent force to prevent continuing air violations, and it is a duty to look into this as soon as possible," said al-Baldawi. "The question today is to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, who has issued a decision to ban any flight without his consent."

"Condemnation and denunciation is no longer enough: There should be a real and realistic end to these violations and [to] American and Zionist recklessness," added the MP. "The Parliamentary Security and Defense Committee must take the appropriate decisions, and we are with it in every resolution defending the sovereignty of Iraq." 

Former deputy prime minister Bahaa al-Araji claimed that the cause of the explosions is known, but that officials are afraid to discuss it.

"If at this point we do not know the sources of the weapons stores explosions at the Falcon camp and the Balad base, then we are too weak to respond," said al-Araji. "Our separation is the cause of our weakness and submission."

A fire broke out at the PMF air base in the Saladin province north of Baghdad in Iraq on Tuesday, according to Al Sumaria news.
Director general of Civil Defense Maj.-Gen. Kazim Salman Bohan stressed that the incident was an ammunition explosion inside the PMF headquarters next to the Balad base, according to Al Sumaria. Reinforcements have been sent to the area by order of the interior minister, he said. 

Three airstrikes have hit bases held by Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq since the beginning of July.

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to questions about recent explosions in Iraq, saying that, "Iran has no immunity anywhere. A state that says 'We are going to destroy you' – we will act against them wherever needed,'" according to Walla! news. When asked whether this holds true in terms of Iraq, the prime minister responded, "I haven't limited myself."

Shortly before returning to Israel from a visit in Ukraine, Netanyahu stated that "there are major security challenges to which the intelligence report I received a few minutes ago will testify," according to Ynet.

The first attack reported on Shia militias in Iraq, which was blamed on Israeli aircraft, happened on July 19 at a base in Amerli in the Saladin province north of Baghdad. Iraqi and Iranian sources blamed Israel at the time, and A-sharq Al-Awsat reported that “diplomatic sources” confirmed the attack, specifying that it was carried out by an Israeli F-35.

Al Arabiya television news reported that Iranian-made ballistic missiles were transported to the base shortly before the attack via trucks used to transport refrigerated food. The identity of the aircraft which conducted the attack was unspecified at the time, and the US denied any involvement.

A source from the IRGC told the Kuwaiti Al-Jarida newspaper that preliminary investigations indicate Israel was behind the attack. An Israeli drone launched from a US base in Syria attacked the base, which stored short- and medium-range missiles.

A-sharq Al-Awsat also reported that a second attack by Israel on a base in Ashraf, northeast of Baghdad, had targeted Iranian advisers who were present at the base as well as a shipment of ballistic missiles that had just arrived from Iran.

Last week, what was likely an airstrike caused explosions and a fire at a weapons depot belonging to the PMF militia south of Baghdad. One person was killed and 29 others were injured in the explosion, according to Sky News Arabia.

Sources in Iraq issued conflicting statements as to the cause of the attack last week. Some claimed that it was an accident caused by improper storage, while others claimed that Israel and the US attacked the depot.

Iran has begun moving its assets from areas repeatedly struck by Israel to locations closer to the border with Iraq, specifically the T4 Airbase located between Homs and Palmyra.

In September, Reuters reported that Iran had transferred ballistic missiles to Shi’ite proxies in Iraq over the course of several months and that it is developing the capacity to build more there. The missiles that were said to have been transferred include the Fateh-110, Zolfaqar and Zelzal types, which have ranges of 200-700 km., allowing them to be able to threaten both Saudi Arabia and Israel.

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