Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has warned of a “strong response” if it is proven that Israel was behind the recent airstrikes in Iraq.
According to statements issued by al-Maliki’s office on Friday, if Israel continues targeting Iraq, the country “will transform into a battle arena that drags in multiple countries, including Iran.”
Haaretz reports: The comments by al-Maliki, who was Iraqi prime minister for eight years and now heads a Shiite bloc in parliament, came hours after U.S. officials confirmed that Israel was responsible for the bombing of an Iranian weapons depot in Iraq last month, an attack that would mark a significant escalation in Israel’s years-long campaign against Iranian military entrenchment across the region.
The confirmation comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is strongly hinting that his country is behind recent airstrikes in Iraq.
Two American officials said Israel carried out an attack on an Iranian weapons depot that killed two Iranian military commanders. The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.
The Friday report also quoted a senior Middle Eastern intelligence official, who said that Israel was specifically responsible for a July 19 attack north of Baghdad on a base he told the Times was being used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards “to transfer weapons to Syria.” The strike, according to the same official, destroyed guided missiles with a range of 200 kilometers.
According to the official, the attack was launched from within Iraq.
A series of blasts in the past few weeks have hit weapon depots and bases belonging to paramilitary groups in Iraq, many of them backed by Israel’s regional foe Iran. The groups blamed the United States and Israel for the blasts on Wednesday.
In an interview with Russian-language Israeli television Channel 9, broadcast on Thursday, Netanyahu was asked whether Israel would operate against Iranian targets in Iraq if needed, he said: “We are operating – not just if needed, we are operating in many areas against a state that wants to annihilate us. Of course I gave the security forces a free hand and instructed them to do anything necessary to thwart Iran’s plans.”
Netanyahu did not directly name Iraq as one of those areas.
A senior U.S. official quoted by the New York Times on Friday said Israel was “pushing the limits” with alleged strikes in Iraq, risking “getting the United States military removed from Iraq.”