Israel vs. Iran in Iraq

Following my last posting about Israel vs. Iran in Syria, I am referring to an article that appeared in The Jerusalem Post today entitled “Iraqi airspace is open to Israel to strike Iran” by Ceng Sagnic,  Head of the Kurdish Studies section of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies in Tel Aviv.

The author points out that Syria is becoming a more dangerous arena for the IAF to operate in against the Iranian build-up there.  Even though the Russian S-200 anti-aircraft system is inadequate, and even though the Syrians have not apparently activated the Russian S-300 system recently established in Syria, the Russians are becoming increasingly restive about Israeli “arbitrary” attacks in Syria.  Also, he points out that the US withdrawal from Eastern Syria, not only leaves the border area between Syria and Iraq open to Iranian territorial expansion, forming a land-bridge between Iran and Lebanon, but also this withdrawal signals to Israel that the US is leaving it to its fate in dealing with the expansion of Iran.  Even if one believes his statements, can Trump be trusted, on the basis of other evidence, to follow through on any commitments.

Sagnic points out that Israel would have a much easier time using the air-space above Iraq to interdict the use by Iran of this important “land-bridge”.  First of all the Russians are not in Iraq and there is no indication that they intend to expand their activities there.  Second, although a majority of Iraqis are Shia Muslims, and there are significant Shia militias operating in Iraq essentially as proxies of Iran, the Iraqi Government is basically unable to deal with them, they in effect control the Iraqi Government.  If a significant blow were dealt to them this would not only free the Iraqi Government from Iranian influence, but would be supported by the large minority of Sunni Muslims in Iraq.

Most significantly, US Secty. of State Mike Pompeo said when he was recently in Iraq, that the US would take no action against Israel if it chose to carry out airstrikes on Iranian targets in Iraq.  Since the US is the only country that has air power in Iraq, this is an important signal for Israel that the skies above Iraq are free for them to take action against Iranian  facilities without fear of being counter attacked.  So this may be a future direction of the shadow war that is going on between Israel and Iran while it tries to build up sufficient forces near the Israeli-Syrian border to attack Israel..