Iranian Influence in Iraq: An Israeli Perspective

Iranian Influence in Iraq: An Israeli Perspective

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Day after day, Israeli planes continue to violate Syrian airspace to strike at the Iranian presence, not only Syria, but it seems that the eyes of the leaders in Tel Aviv are heading towards Iraqi airspace for the same reason.
The Israelis believe that Iran, which does not respond to their raids in Syria, is working with its agents of the Iraqi Shiite militias to impose military influence that may threaten their existence, and Western evidence continue that Iran has placed missiles and manufactured others in Iraq as a balance of power that it pursues and to avoid the restrictions imposed on it in Syria.
In 2015, it was revealed that Iran sent a shipment of sophisticated missiles and projectiles to Iraq as part of its support for the battle against the terrorist ISIS. These missiles introduced a serious level of advanced weaponry into the battlefield in Iraq.
But the most serious was revealed by an investigation of the British Reuters in August, 2018, about the fact that Tehran is sending ballistic missiles to the Iraqi Shiite militias, carrying Iranian names are «Zelzal» and «Fateh 110» and «Zulfikar», and its range between 200 and 700 kilometers, “putting Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and Tel Aviv in Israel at a distance that would allow to hit them if they were deployed in southern or western Iraq,” according to Reuters.
According to Western and Israeli security analyzes, Iran is pushing the production of missiles in Iraq after training Iraqis on how to use missiles where the factories used in the development of missiles in Iraq are located in Jarf al-Sakhr, north of Karbala, and there is a factory in Iraqi Kurdistan , while the factory in Zaafaraniya, east of Baghdad which produced warheads and the ceramic material used in the manufacture of missile molds under the former Iraqi regime, has renewed its production in 2016 with the help of Iran.
These analyzes suggest that successive Iraqi governments have been aware of the flow of Iranian missiles into Shiite armed groups to help fight militants of ISIS , but the shipments continued to arrive after its defeat. These analyzes say that the arsenal of missiles originated from Iran was not intended to fight the terrorist ISIS , but it is a pressure card used by Iran when it enters into a regional conflict.
Iran is not hiding its goal of building a land route through Iraq and Syria that it uses in its conflict with its regional enemies, therefore, it is taking Iraq as a way to pass weapons towards the Lebanese-Syrian border with Israel. According to Western political analysis, the Iranian land bridge that extends to Syria is part of the Shiite crescent project Iran has long sought to establish it in the region, as it is an extension of Iran’s influence in the Arab world. For a long time, Israel and the ruling families in the Arab countries saw the Shiite crescent as a terrifying vision for the future. In the past few months, the fog has been cleared and the vision turned into tangible reality.
It is clear that the Iranian increased concern over the transfer of missiles to Iraq is the continuation of Israeli attacks on Iranian bases in Syria, the difficulty of action against Israel in Syria, and the impact of Israeli activity to prevent Iran from military positioning in Syria prompted Tehran to focus on the putting of weapons in Iraq, noting that Iranian activity has increased in the construction of a land bridge, which runs from the Iranian border and passes through central Iraq into Syria. Such a ground road is an important strategic advantage, as Iran previously had to transfer its weapons first to Hezbollah militias in Lebanon and its other militias and then these weapons reach their military bases in Syria by aircraft.
The question arises in this context: Does the Iranian presence in Iraq – from the Israeli perspective – pose a threat to Israel?

In the Israeli intelligence estimate of 2017, that Iran has a real difficulty in military concentration in Syria, but has not yet relinquished its intention to “create regional hegemony through alliances ranging from Iran, through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon.” However, those security assessments indicated that “Iran has had to rethink its approach to its dream in the region.” Iran believed in the recalculation that the situation in Iraq gives it a better chance to achieve its plans in the region.

Israeli’s Haaretz news paper reported, today Wednesday, that Israeli security and Intelligence sources considered the Iranian presence in Iraq was a threat to Israeli security . According to these sources, Iran is transporting advanced weapons and missiles with a range of 200 to 700 kilometers, capable of reaching at any point in Israel, they are accurate, sophisticated missiles and more accurate and sophisticated rockets than Hezbollah’s weapons and rockets in Lebanon.. According to these estimates, Iran is moving these missiles to areas in northern Iraq, and would also transfer such missiles to both Syria and Lebanon. Earlier Israeli reports claimed that Iran could transfer advanced weapons to Lebanon through waterways, across the sea.
Israel continues to escalate the tone of its rhetoric against Iran and the exaggeration of threat posed by Iran to Israeli security, even through its presence on Iraqi soil, after Israel launched hundreds of attacks and raids on Iranian arms shipments to Hezbollah on land of Syria, as well as the bombing of Iranian positions in Syria. As Israel launched last week, according to various estimates, including the head of the National Security Research Center, General Amos Yadlin, a raid on Iranian targets in Iraq, the Israeli authorities continued to claim that Iran is seeking to exploit Iraqi territory by strengthening the presence of its Shiite militias loyal to it , to launch rocket strikes against Israel in the event of a confrontation between the parties. Reports have reported that Israel has carried out two raids in recent days on a ballistic missile store north of Baghdad.

At this stage, Israel keeps silent about everything that is happening in Iraq except for a short film published by the Likud party, which shows an old speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations , he said : “We will work against you in Iraq and we will work against you anywhere to defend our people “.The short film was released again three days after the attack on a base in Salahaddin province in Iraq two weeks ago in which Iranian fighters were killed. So we can understand that as a symbol that Israel seems to be behind the recent attack.

Israel’s analysis sees Israel’s freedom of action in Iraq is different from its freedom of action in Syria. It is true that Israel has operational capabilities to attack Iraq, but it could collide with a problem by the United States. US President Donald Trump wants to restore calm to Iraq as soon as possible. Every attack in Iraq shakes stability and alienates foreign investors and countries willing to boost Iraq’s economy. For this reason, Iraq is the only country that Trump keeps his eyes closed about it while maintaining trade with Iran despite sanctions. Recently, US spy planes have increased their activity in the border area between Iraq and Syria .Perhaps this is the American way to make it clear to Israel that they will increase control over what is happening in the region and the passage of advanced means of warfare for Hezbollah and the militias in Iraq and Syria. In addition, the United States may have begun to work against Iranian concentration in Iraq, fearing that in the future it would be affected by Shiite militias.

In the opinion of these analyzes also Shiite militias in Iraq is the second brick of Iran’s concentration in the state, in addition to the missile system. The difficult economic situation and religious extremism in the Arab countries enabled Iran to recruit volunteers for militias with support and funding. Through the use of militias, Iran can carry out military activities without bearing a responsibility. Iran was associated with militias in Iraq in the 1980s and 1990s, but its military power has become more important with technological development and the strengthening of the political power of these militias. The Iranians give these forces military, economic, logistical, spiritual and religious support as well. On the other hand, the militias will stand by Iran on demand. According to a large security source in Israel, these militias will reach the borders of Lebanon and Syria to participate in the fight against Israel. More recently, the Dado Institute, the IDF Information Center, has also addressed this issue, which has shown in its research that Israel must focus on the importance of militias in fighting. Israel sees Iran exploiting its Shiite militias on Iraqi soil to carry out various operations, without having to acknowledge responsibility for them. Iran would push these militias into Syria and Lebanon and activate them against Israel.
Since the date of the approval and signing of the nuclear agreement between Iran and Western countries, the Israeli occupation state claims that the agreement is suffering from a great shortage because it does not mention the Iranian missile project at all. The occupying state demanded that restrictions be placed on Iranian activity in the field of development of Long and transcontinental continents missiles.

Iraqi Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies