Massive explosion at Iraqi base linked to Iranian-backed militias

Iraq’s Security Media Cell was quick to tamp down on rumors about the explosion.

Iraqi security forces re-open BaghdadÕs Sinak bridge, after it was shut down by protesters, in Baghdad, Iraq February 12, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/THAIER AL-SUDANI)
Iraqi security forces re-open BaghdadÕs Sinak bridge, after it was shut down by protesters, in Baghdad, Iraq February 12, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/THAIER AL-SUDANI)
An Iraqi military base that has a large ammunition dump exploded on Sunday. The same base was the scene of a mysterious explosion last year that pro-Iranian militias in Iraq blamed on Israel. Explosions on July 26 appeared similar to those last year but also similar to blasts that took place at the same base when it was used by the US and mortar fire ignited ammunition in 2006.
Iraq’s Security Media Cell was quick to tamp down on rumors about the explosion, claiming that the massive fireballs and smoke seen rising from the camp were actually an accident caused by ammunition stored in a warehouse. It was a hot day in Baghdad, part of a heatwave in the region, and temperature allegedly caused the explosion. However, it is unclear given the base’s history of explosions over the years, with at least four incidents, why the ammunition has never been security.
According to Iraqi sources the area of the base affected was ammunition dumps linked to the Federal Police, which are part of the Interior Ministry. The Interior Ministry in Iraq has been infiltrated deeply by elements of the pro-Iranian Badr Organization. The claims that it was a Federal Poilice ammunition storage  was to allay concerns that the explosion actually hit areas where the pro-Iranian militias, called Hashd al-Shaabi, have ammunition.
In August 2019 after three similar explosions at bases linked to the PMU, there were questions about whether “foreign” or outside actors were responsible. Iraqi sources at the time, eventually including the Prime Minister’s office in Baghdad, blamed Israel. Hadi al-Amiri of the Badr Organization also blamed Israel. Elements of the PMU also said the US was responsible on August 22, 2019. 
The pro-Iranian militias linked to the Hashd al-Shaabi, also called PMU, have carried out dozens of rocket attacks on US bases since last year. The US-led Coalition has also been drawing down forces, including leaving Basmaya base and moving UK forces from Camp Taji in recent months. Another six posts have been handed over to Iraq since January. Iran has threatened to attack US forces after the US killed IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in January.
Iranian leaders recently met Iraq’s Prime Minister. He has tried to crack down on Kataib Hezbollah, a part of the PMU, but these groups have burned his image and also accused his administration of role in a kidnapping of a German woman who was recently released in Baghdad. It appears the militias linked to Iran were responsible not only for the kidnapping but murdering an Iraq analyst recently.
In this context the explosion adds fuel to the fire of tensions. That is why Iraq has quickly said it was an accident, so that rumors do not grow.
However, last July and August initial reports also said the explosions were accidents. Analysis by ImageSat International last year said that it was likely several explosions were linked and designed to weaken Iran’s “land bridge” of weapons trafficking by which Iran moves weapons to Syria and Hezbollah. The August 12 explosion at Camp Falcon or Saqr Camp was part of that. Iran has moved ballistic missiles to Iraq in August 2018 and again in November 2019 according to reports.