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August 21, 2019 2:56 pm

Israeli Expert: Destruction of Iran-Connected Sites in Iraq ‘No Coincidence’

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Smoke rises from an explosion at an Iraqi base used by an Iran-backed militia. Photo: Screenshot.

The destruction of several Iran-connected military sites in Iraq over the past few weeks were “no coincidence,” an Israeli expert said on Wednesday.

In a Twitter thread, Amos Yadlin, the head of the Tel Aviv University-affiliated Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) think tank, said the attacks on the sites run by pro-Iran militias in Iraq were “probably a well-designed, well-performed campaign” that look like “covert operations.”

As such, they were part of Israel’s “campaign between the wars,” a series of operations intended to counter Iran’s expansionist actions in the Middle East, including terrorism, control of governments in Syria and Lebanon, and attempts to build a land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea to facilitate the transfer of arms, Yadlin asserted.

On Tuesday, a series of explosions took place at an Iraqi military base near Baghdad used by an Iran-backed militia.

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Last week, an Iran-linked missile depot in southern Baghdad was destroyed by an air strike. It was widely suggested that Israel was behind the incident, though it did not claim responsibility.

Asked about the explosions on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Iran has no immunity, anywhere.”

“We will act — and currently are acting — against them, wherever it is necessary,” Netanyahu added.

Asking “who loses?” as a result of the destruction of the Iraqi sites, Yadlin said, “Iran and its supporters in Iraq, the unfortunate innocent Iraqi population, the Government of Iraq appearing unable to protect its sovereignty, and perhaps the US, which is worried about the safety of its forces in the region.”

On the question of “who gains?” Yadlin asked, “Israel and [Saudi Arabia] threatened from Iran and its proxies? The US which is in the midst of a strategic conflict with Iran but is careful not to use force? Anti-Iranian forces in Iraq, including Shiites, that want to limit the militias influence.”

As for what would happen next, Yadlin predicted Iraq would not specifically blame Israel, the US would continue to put “max pressure” on Iran, and the Tehran regime would practice “strategic patience” and continue its expansionist policies.

In Israel, Yadlin posited, Netanyahu might drop hints of Israel’s involvement as a “pre-election stunt.”

In the end, “The campaign between wars … continues and it will be judged by its strategic effects vs. its costs. Ongoing escalation control is vital.”

Veteran Israeli journalist Ron Ben-Yishai illustrated the growing urgency of the situation in Iraq in an article published Wednesday by Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot. Iran, he wrote, has just began construction on a land bridge on the Syrian-Iraqi border at considerable effort and expense. When completed, Ben-Yishai said, it would “allow the passage of thousands of people and tons of merchandise a day.”

As a result, he wrote, “Iran will finally be able to smoothly and quickly operate the land bridge from Iran to the eastern Mediterranean basin.” It is deliberately intended to counter Israel’s ability to target and destroy weapons shipments by Iran-backed proxies in Lebanon and Syria. It will also allow Iran to circumvent US-imposed sanctions, especially oil exports.

It is, Ben-Yishai noted, much more difficult for Israel to operate at such a distance, as opposed to in bordering countries like Lebanon and Syria. It is both operationally dangerous and threatens to drag Israel into regional and sectarian rivalries in Iraq and the Gulf states, and there are also challenges posed by the US presence in Iraq itself.

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