Militias blame US for attacks on bases in Iraq - GulfToday

Militias blame US for attacks on bases in Iraq


Kurdish Peshmerga Forces take part in a training session with German soldiers at a military camp in Erbil, Iraq, on Wednesday. Reuters

Iraqi paramilitary forces backed by Iran accused Israeli drones of carrying out a series of attacks on bases run by the militias, saying on Wednesday that they hold the United States ultimately responsible. The militias vowed to defend themselves against any future attack.

The rare and combative statement by the state-sanctioned militias known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, came in the wake of at least three mysterious explosions at PMF bases around Iraq over the past month. A government investigation, obtained by the Associated Press on Wednesday, found that one of the blasts, last week near Baghdad, was caused by a drone strike.

American officials denied the US had any role in the explosions.

Asked about the mounting speculation that Israel was striking in Iraq, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday struck his country’s traditional stance of neither denying nor confirming such operations.

“Iran has no immunity, anywhere... We will act — and currently are acting — against them, wherever it is necessary,” he said during a visit to Ukraine, quoted in the Times of Israel.

If Israel did carry out the bombings, it would be an expansion of its campaign against Iran’s spreading influence in the region. Israel is known to have struck Iranian targets in Syria on numerous occasions — as well as in Lebanon and Sudan in the past. But the last time Israel was known to have struck inside Iraq was in 1981, when Israeli fighter jets bombed an under-construction Iraqi nuclear reactor south of Baghdad.

The PMF’s statement was the latest sign of Iraq’s fragile government getting caught in the middle amid the tensions between Iran and the United States. Iran wields powerful influence over the Iraqi government through its support of the PMF militias, which were a major force in the fight against the Daesh group.

At the same time, Iraq hosts American troops and forces belonging to the US coalition fighting Daesh, which conduct frequent reconnaissance missions and occasional airstrikes. There was no immediate comment from government officials to the PMF statement, which appears to have been issued without prior consultation with Iraqi security forces — an embarrassing sign of how the militias operate independently.

Associated Press

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