Did Iran use Iraqi militias to fly drones in Israel? – analysis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of launching an armed drone that flew over Israeli airspace amid the war in Gaza. In a meeting with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Netanyahu brought a piece of the drone and said that “Iran has sent an armed drone to Israel from Iraq or Syria.” It was intercepted near the border with Jordan in an area close to where another armed drone from Syria was shot down in February 2018. The fact that Iraq was mentioned as a possible location of where the drone came from testifies to a larger Iranian threat that links Iraq and Syria. This threat has been known for years but could increase.

Netanyahu used the drone as an example of Iran providing infrastructure to terrorist groups. Details of the downed drone are still relatively scarce. He was shot on May 18 and pieces fell in an area near Beit Shean. Iranian media did not focus on the drone story. A short article from Sputnik News in Arabic mentioned it. Al-Mayadeen, who generally backs Iran and Hezbollah, also briefly mentioned the drone incident.

The history of drones is part of a larger issue. Hamas released photos it said were taken by one of its surveillance drones over Israel and Hamas used a new drone based on Iran’s Ababil drone.

Let us now see the role of Iraq. In August 2018, Reuters revealed that Iran was moving ballistic missiles to Iraq. It was based on Western intelligence sources, they said. In December 2019, the United States said Iran was once again moving missiles to Iraq. Iran appears to have asked Kataib Hezbollah, part of the pro-Iranian Hashd al-Shaabi militia group in Iraq, to ​​use a drone to attack a pipeline in Saudi Arabia in May 2019. Other threats have emerged. Iraq against Saudi Arabia in February 2021 when a drone flying from Iraq attacked a royal palace. Kataib Hezbollah was previously led by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis until he was killed by the United States in January 2020 alongside Qasem Soleimani. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy says this group pioneered the sophisticated use of drones in Iraq. Michael Knights and Crispin Smith wrote on May 14 that “Iraqi militias are now lining up a twelve-foot-span drone similar to the Sammad-1, an Iranian-designed aircraft with a range of 500 km, both used by the Houthis. and Lebanese Hezbollah. ”

Drones were used against US forces in Erbil in the Kurdistan region in mid-April 2021 and against the al-Asad base west of Baghdad on May 8. Photos of the drone wreckage in Erbil appear to be the same gray as the drone that was shot down in northeast Israel. This indicates the Iranian origin of the drones. However, the reference to Iraq as a potential location from which the drone flew or came also hints at the involvement of Iraqi militias.

The pro-Iranian militias in Iraq are called the Hashd al-Shaabi or PMU. These include groups like Qais Khazali’a Asaib Ahl al Haq. He came to Lebanon in 2017 to threaten Israel and say he would work alongside Hezbollah. Muhandis and Kataib Hezbollah were part of the IRGC’s Quds Force network across the Middle East, aiding Iran and Hezbollah. Other militias in Iraq are close to the IRGC and Iran. After the war between Israel and Hamas broke out on May 10, pro-Iranian groups in Iraq attempted to organize fighters to fight Israel. On May 16, reports indicated that Kataib Hezbollah had organized volunteers. Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba and Kataib Sayed al Shuhada also reportedly wanted to fight Israel from Iraq. An MP from Nujaba said on May 17 that the group was ready to leave and that in Iraq, protesters condemned Israel and the United States. Reports indicated that Kataib Hezbollah was in contact with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. At the same time, Esmail Ghaani of the Quds Force wrote a letter to Hamas commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza. Ghaani spoke with Haniyeh on May 15.

THE QUESTION is whether the drone that entered Israeli airspace on May 18 came from Syria or Iraq. What is the connection with Iraq. Iran flew a drone from Syria in February 2018 from the T-4 base. A Hezbollah drone team made up of several Hezbollah operatives attempted unsuccessfully to launch drones into Israel in August 2018. Israel carried out an airstrike against them. Israel has shot down several drones from Lebanon in the past year. In January and April. The April drone belonged to Hezbollah, the IDF said.

If Iraq-based militias prepare to fight Israel, harboring Iranian ballistic missiles and potentially using drones against Israel, that marks a serious escalation. Israel operated to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria. In July and August 2019, pro-Iranian groups in Iraq accused Israel of several airstrikes in Iraq. In August 2019, US officials appeared to confirm these airstrikes in quotes published in VOA in the United States.

Kataib Hezbollah is known to have used a headquarters in Albukamal until June 2018, when it was hit by an airstrike. The United States has also carried out airstrikes in Syria against the Iraqi militias operating there. This illustrates the network of Iranian-linked Iraqi militias that operate in Syria and use the border to aid Iran in its “route to the sea,” a network of Iranian nodes that are used to transport weapons to Hezbollah and are active in Iraq and Syria among pro-Iranian groups. These now include trafficking in drone technology, just as Iran helped the Houthis in Yemen develop drones to attack Saudi Arabia.

The distance from Al-Qaim in Iraq or areas in Anbar province from which drones could be flown is at the extreme limit of the range of these types of drones, around 600 km. This would mean that any drone flown from Iraq would either represent the threat distance that can be reached or it was flown from Syria. Netanyahu said he was from Iraq or Syria. The mention of Iraq seems to indicate that Iraq is important in this new threat equation.


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