U.S. officials have confirmed that Israel was behind the series of mysterious airstrikes, which targeted bases and ammo depots of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in the last two weeks, the New York Times reported on August 22.
The attack marks a significant escalation in Israel’s years-long campaign against what it sees as Iranian military assets in the region.
The confirmation comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly hinted that his country was behind recent air raids that have hit bases and munition depots belonging to Iran-backed paramilitary forces operating in Iraq.
The mystery attacks have not been claimed by any side and have left Iraqi officials scrambling for a response amid strong speculation that Israel may have been behind them.
A senior Middle Eastern intelligence official also confirmed that the airstrikes on the PMU, including the July 19 attack, were carried out by Israel.
The source said that the July 19 airstrike destroyed a shipment of precision-guided missiles which were on their way to Syria, claiming that the airstrike was carried out from “within Iraq.”
“Israel is pushing the limits with the strikes in Iraq … The airstrikes could get the United States military removed from Iraq,” the New York Times quoted a senior U.S. official as saying.
The PMU had held the U.S. and Israel responsible for the attacks on bases, claiming that Israeli drones were deployed inside Iraq with help from the U.S. The information provided by the New York Time is in line with these claims.
A few hours before the release of the New York Times’ report, the PMU’s air-defense units opened fire at an unknown drone that was flying over a base near Baghdad without authorization.
Earlier this week, the London-based Asharq al-Awsat quoted Western diplomatic sources saying that Israeli operations against Iran in Iraq and Syria had been given the green light both from Washington and from Moscow, with the understanding that they were “vital to ensuring Israeli security.”
Israel has warned repeatedly that it would not allow an Iranian presence in Syria.