IAF Commander Norkin: US airstrikes in Iraq a potential game changer

Thousands of paramilitary members march on US Embassy in Baghdad following deadly strikes.

Israeli Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin stands alongside senior US Air Force officers in Washington (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Israeli Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin stands alongside senior US Air Force officers in Washington
The US strikes against an Iranian proxy group in Iraq could greatly up the stakes in the fight against Iran’s expansionist ambitions, Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin said Tuesday as thousands of members of Shi’ite militias marched on the US Embassy in Baghdad in response to the deadly strikes.
“The attack by the United States Air Force is a potential game-changer,” he said at a Calcalist conference, regarding the American strikes on Kataib Hezbollah locations in Syria and Iraq that killed some 25 paramilitary fighters.
The strikes came two days after a barrage of more than 30 rockets were fired by the Iranian-backed militia toward the K1 Iraqi military base in Kirkuk, killing a US civilian contractor and wounding dozens of Iraqi and American troops.
 In a statement on Sunday, outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi called the strikes a “dangerous escalation that threatens the security of Iraq and the region.”
According to Abdul Mahdi, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called him close to 30 minutes before to inform him of the strikes. During the call, Abdul Mahdi demanded that Esper call off the strikes because they would lead to a further escalation.
Both Israel and the US have warned that Iran and its proxy militias are the biggest threats to peace in the region, and they hope to weaken Tehran’s growing influence across the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.
During the conference on Tuesday, Norkin said the connection between the IAF and the Americans is an asset that strengthens Israel’s aerial superiority.
Israel’s aerial supremacy, he said, is the “key to regional stability.”
“We are in a time of turmoil in which the Iranian threat is known to everyone, including the nuclear one,” Norkin said. “In the northern arena, we face a series of the world’s most advanced ground-to-air systems, like the S-300 and S-400. The Middle East that was when I joined [the military] is not the same Middle East I see today. There are states that have changed, and some will never return to what they once were.”
Israeli officials have warned Iran is also attempting to entrench itself in Iraq, a mainly Shi’ite country, as it did in Syria, where it has established and consolidated a parallel security structure.
Iran has for years been trying to establish a 1,200-kilometer-long land bridge from Tehran to the Mediterranean, a major concern for Israel, which since 2013 has been carrying out a “war between wars” campaign aimed at preventing Iran from reaching its goal.
Last week, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi publicly admitted to IAF airstrikes in Iraq, saying Iran’s Quds force is smuggling advanced weapons into the country on a monthly basis, “and we can’t allow that.”