U.S.: Israeli airstrikes in Iraq complicated anti-ISIS mission

The US report says that on July 19 there were the “first of several suspected Israeli drone strikes in Iraq.”

The Lockheed Martin F35 fighter jet plane, also known as the Adir, in a test flight (photo credit: LOCKHEED MARTIN AERONAUTICS/ LIZ LUTZ)
The Lockheed Martin F35 fighter jet plane, also known as the Adir, in a test flight
(photo credit: LOCKHEED MARTIN AERONAUTICS/ LIZ LUTZ)
A report from the US Lead Inspector-General on the anti-ISIS coalition Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) has spotlighted “tensions with Iran and suspected Israeli airstrikes,” as a complication for the OIR mission against ISIS in Iraq. In addition, the report notes that US Central Command was concerned that “Iranian backed forces in Syria might look to target US military personnel or its partner forces in Syria if they view the US as complicit in Israeli strikes on its [Iran’s] forces.”
The US report says that on July 19 there were the “first of several suspected Israeli drone strikes in Iraq” and that it targeted a Popular Mobilization “munitions depot near Baghdad.” Israel received a larger mention than usual in the quarterly report from the Department of Defense that appears to indicate increasing concern.
“Tensions with Iran and suspected Israeli airstrikes complicate OIR this quarter,” the report says. “According to media reports, suspected Israeli airstrikes on Iraqi bases belonging to Iranian-aligned militias this quarter exacerbated ongoing tensions between the United States and Iran and complicated the OIR mission.”
The report says that it relied on open source “press reports” which stated “that as many as four airstrikes targeted PMU positions.” This drew rebuke from Iraqi members of parliament, “some of whom called for the removal of US forces from Iraq.” Iraq imposed air restrictions in response. The US says that these restrictions “hurt the Coalition’s ability to counter the ISIS threat in Iraq.” That included impacting Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions. The State Department was apparently non-plussed. The US embassy  tried to get the Iraqis to reduce the air restrictions they put in place. The US was concerned about increasing calls for US forces to leave.
Central Command also noted increased threat against US forces from Iranian-aligned groups in Iraq, writing that “Iranian-backed militias may view the US as complicit in the Israeli strikes, which targeted Iraqi militia bases allegedly housing Iranian weapons.” The Iranian allied groups might respond also to US sanctions. PMU deputy Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a designated terrorist who runs Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq, suggested that the PMU needs an air force and blamed the US and Israel.
The US report is one of the first to spell out all the concerns that impacted both the Coalition’s role, CENTCOM and US diplomats. The concern that it made the US scale back some ISR missions to seek out ISIS is important. Also it illustrates how Iran has exploited its hostility  to the US to blame the US on several fronts, using local units. Overall the US says that there was “no specific increase in threat to US forces in Syria from Iran this quarter.” But CENTCOM is concerned that Iranian-linked units could one day “retaliate” against the US after blaming it  for an alleged Israeli airstrike.



Tags ISIS