Iran says it gives Iraqi militias ballistic missiles capable of hitting Israel
For the first time, Iran is deploying ballistic missiles in its western neighbor Iraq with a range that makes them capable of striking Israel and its Sunni rival Saudi Arabia.
According to a Reuters news service report, several dozen of these rockets are already deployed with Iran’s Shiite proxies in Iraq, while Tehran is working to ensure that its allied militias in the country are capable of building more rockets locally. This includes setting up manufacturing facilities in al-Zafaraniya, east of Baghdad, Jurf al-Sakhar, north of Karbala and Iraqi Kurdistan, according to various sources cited in the report. Iran has also trained militia members in the use of the new weapons.
The deployment aims to improve Iran’s ability to retaliate against any Western or Arab attack on its territory, as well as expand its options for attacking opponents in the region, Reuters said.
Iran’s proxies, allied militias and even its own forces are involved in internal conflicts in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.
The report cites “three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources.” He said the missiles are of the Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar types, with ranges of 200 to 700 kilometers (124 to 435 miles), enough to strike the Saudi capital Riyadh from southern Iraq and Israeli territory. from western Iraq.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Quds Force abroad have bases in both regions of Iraq.
“The logic was to have a back-up plan if Iran was attacked,” a senior Iranian official said. “The number of missiles is not high, just a few dozen, but it can be increased if necessary.”
The sources claimed that the head of the Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani, was leading the effort.
Neither Iran nor Iraq commented to Reuters on the report.
Iran already trains, arms, and in many cases directly controls militias across the region, from Lebanese Hezbollah to Houthi rebels in Yemen and several groups in Syria. This has included missile shipments, particularly to Hezbollah and in recent years to the Houthis.
A Western source said that “Iran has made Iraq its advanced missile base,” adding that the move was not meant to go unnoticed, but sent a “warning” to the United States and Israel to the continuation of Israeli strikes against Iranian installations in Syria.
This move makes Iran’s allies in Iraq better able to attack US troops in the country in the event that Iran is attacked.
âWe have bases like this in many places and Iraq is one of them. If America attacks us, our friends will attack the interests of America and its allies in the region, âsaid a senior IRGC commander.
The factories that will build new missiles are located in parts of Iraq controlled by Shiite militias closest to Iran.
The al-Zafaraniya factory produced ballistic missile parts, including warheads, under Saddam’s rule, and was returned to service with the help of Iranian officials in 2016. Militias have already tested missiles on the site of Jurf al-Sakhar, the requested report.
Iraqi intelligence reportedly tracked the missile shipments to militias, which began under the pretext of being intended for use in the fight against Islamic State. But the expeditions continued after ISIS’s defeat in Iraq, an Iraqi intelligence official told the news service.
“It was clear to the Iraqi secret service that such an arsenal of missiles sent by Iran was not intended to fight Daesh (IS) militants, but as a pressure card that Iran can use once involved in a regional conflict, âthe official said.
The Iraqi government was unable to stop the transfers, the official added. âWe cannot stop the militias from firing Iranian rockets because the fire button is simply not in our hands; it is with the Iranians who control the push button.
He added: âIran will certainly use the missiles it has handed over to the Iraqi militias it supports to send a strong message to its enemies in the region and to the United States that it has the capacity to use them. Iraqi territories as a launching pad for its missiles. strike anywhere and anytime he chooses.
Iran has long used its Shiite proxies and allies in Iraq to retaliate against its opponents. According to transcripts of the 2007 interrogations of a prominent Shiite military and religious figure in Iraq declassified earlier this year, Iran has been heavily involved in attacks by Iraqi Shiite militias on US troops in the years since. the American invasion of the country in 2003.
Qais al-Khazali, who now heads the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia which won 15 parliamentary seats in the country’s May elections, detailed the extent of Iranian involvement in the country during the 2007 interrogation, said The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing recently declassified documents.
Khazali was then under arrest on suspicion of having organized an attempted kidnapping of American soldiers in the Iraqi city of Karala which left five Americans dead.
Khazali’s testimony from this period, declassified by the US Army Central Command, is particularly damning.
Although he now criticizes Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs, ten years ago his statements to American interrogators described Iranian assistance as the key to the ability of the Iraqi Shiite militias to carry out their campaigns of terrorist attacks. bomb and other attacks on US troops. .
Some of the key campaign orders against US troops, including blast-formed penetrators that killed and injured hundreds of Americans, were issued by Iran, he said at the time.
Friday’s report also comes amid mounting tensions between the United States and Iran over Washington’s May decision to drop the 2015 nuclear deal that traded sanctions relief for a rollback. Iran’s nuclear program. One of the main US arguments in favor of the move concerned Iran’s expanding involvement in various conflicts in the region, as well as its burgeoning ballistic missile program.