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Iran seeks to use Iraqi territory as base to threaten region: analyst

By Faris al-Omran

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Iraqi fighters with militias backed by Iran pose in this picture posted online April 11th, 2018. [AFP]

US officials have concluded that the May 14th drone attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil industry were launched from Iraq, not Yemen, according to a June 28th report by the Wall Street Journal.

US officials familiar with the intelligence on the drone attacks say they originated in southern Iraq and pointed the finger at Iran-backed militias as the likely culprit, said the report.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Iraq's prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to take steps to ensure that Iraq is not used as a staging ground for attacks, it said.

Iraqi officials are questioning the US assessment and have asked the Trump administration for more evidence to support its claims, the report said.

The Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) in Yemen had initially claimed the drone attacks on two pumping stations near the Saudi capital Riyadh, which shut down a key oil pipeline.

The pipeline, which can pump five million barrels of crude per day, provides a strategic alternative route for Saudi exports if the shipping lane from the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz is closed.

Iran seeks to exploit Iraqi territory

"Washington has notified Iraq that it is in possession of evidence confirming that the attack originated from Iraqi territory," said former MP Omar Abdul Sattar, who is an expert in international relations.

"Iraqi militias linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Lebanese Hizbullah militia were involved in the attack," he told Diyaruna.

"The Iranians support the Houthis in Yemen and their continuous attacks against Saudi Arabia and intend to open a new front against the kingdom through their militias in Iraq," he said.

"Iran is trying to use Iraqi territory as a base to threaten Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region through its affiliated Iraqi militias, run by IRGC Quds Force commander Gen. Qassem Suleimani," said Abdul Sattar.

On Monday (July 1st), Abdul Mahdi issued a decree ordering the integration of all armed groups into the Iraqi army.

Per the decree, members of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) are to be subjected to the same regulations imposed on regular army personnel and will fully operate as part of the Iraqi armed forces.

That decision "may reflect international and regional resentment over the growing danger from Iran's agents in Iraq", Abdul Sattar said.

Following the new reports on the May 14th attack against Saudi Arabia, Abdul Mahdi discussed relations with the kingdom in a phone call Monday with Saudi king Salman bin Abdul-Aziz.

The two leaders discussed bilateral co-operation to achieve oil price stability and the importance of preserving the security of both countries, according to the prime minister's office.

Saudi Arabia also announced the deployment of monitoring and air surveillance systems on the border with Iraq.

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