The Trump administration has mounted a defence of Israel’s recent round of suspected attacks on targets across the Middle East, saying countries which allowed a “malign third country” to place weapons on their territory had it coming.
“It’s our position that if neighbours of Israel allow a malign third country that does not share a border with Israel to use their sovereign territory as a holding ground for increasingly sophisticated dangerous weapons, the only purpose of which is to attack Israel, I think those governments, if they cannot curb or control those elements, are going to have to be prepared to be responsible for them,” an anonymous administration official said, his remarks quoted by the Washington Examiner.
“So be it Lebanon, be it Syria, be it Iraq – I think that has to be our very clear message to those governments,” the official added, presumably in reference to the recent string of suspected or confirmed Israeli attacks in those countries. “It’s our position that Israel is only acting because of Iran’s action,” the official noted, clarifying what he or she meant with the “malign third country” reference.
The official’s remarks followed earlier comments by US officials last week that Israel did in fact carry out “several strikes” in Iraq recently, with one of the sources concerned that Israel was “pushing the limits” of Iraqi patience. This, the official warned, may lead an angry Baghdad to demand that the estimated 5,000 US troops still stationed in Iraq leave the country.
On Wednesday, the Pentagon reiterated its “support” for “Iraqi sovereignty,” and spoke against “any potential actions by external actors inciting violence in Iraq,” in a possible vailed criticism of the recent suspected Israeli strikes.
Israel 'Absolutely, Certainly' Responsible, Lawmaker Claims
Late last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke Tel Aviv's silence on the string of attacks in attack, not directly confirming Israeli involvement, but hinting that his military had been given the “freedom of action” wherever necessary and however necessary to confront the “Iranian threat.”
This week, Ahmad al-Assadi, a spokesman for the Fatah Coalition, a major Iraqi parliamentary faction, said recent government probes aimed at revealing the perpetrators of the attacks against the Popular Mobilisation Units over the past two months have concluded that Israel was “absolutely, certainly” responsible for some of them. Baghdad will be submitting its evidence to the UN at a later date, he said.
The PMU are a collection of mostly Shia Iraqi paramilitary groups originally formed in 2014 to fight Daesh (ISIS),* and have received military assistance and training from Iranian advisors. The groups played a major role in destroying the Iraqi portion of Daesh’s so-called ‘caliphate’, and did not disband after Baghdad declared victory over the group in late 2017.
The PMU began claiming that they had “proof” that Israeli forces had violated Iraqi airspace to hit their bases in mid-August, pointing to attacks against the al-Saqr and Amerli bases. They militia also blamed the US for the aggression, stressing that the US Air Force is in de facto control of Iraq’s airspace and could not have been left in the dark about the attacks.
*A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.