Iraq: Israel will “Bear Consequences” for Airspace Violations

Iraq’s deputy prime minister for energy affairs Hussein al-Shahristani has warned Israel that it would “bear the consequences” for a violation of Iraqi airspace during any potential raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

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The comment from al-Shahristani is the first time a senior Iraqi official has publicly warned Israel against entering its airspace — the most direct route — to hit targets in Iran.

He also said that Iraq had received assurances from Washington that the United States would not use its airspace to attack Iran, which Western powers believe is trying to develop a nuclear weapon.

“The (Americans) have assured us that they will never violate Iraqi airspace or Iraqi sovereignty by using our airspace to attack any of our neighbours,” Shahristani said in an interview in his office in Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone.

“We have also warned Israel that if they violate Iraqi airspace, they will have to bear the consequences.”

The minister said that the issue had been discussed in Iraq’s national security council, and the warning had been passed to Israel “through countries that they have relations with”.

Asked how Iraq would react to any such Israeli attempt to target Iran’s nuclear programme, Shahristani said: “Obviously, Iraq wouldn’t be disclosing its reaction, to allow Israel to take that into account.”

Iraq lies across the most direct flight path from Israel to Iran, so an attack against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities could necessitate violating Iraq’s airspace. The US, however, can launch an attack from its naval vessels stationed in the Persian Gulf and therefore avoid entanglement with a third country, as highlighted in a position paper published last week by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and reported by the Times of Israel.

Early in 2012, Jonathan Marcus of the BBC described the route over Iraq for Israeli planes targeting Iran as “the central, more likely route” explaining, “With the US military gone, the Iraqi authorities are far less able to monitor and control their air space, effectively opening a door to an Israeli incursion”.

But Baghdad has been accused by the United States of turning a blind eye to Iranian flights through its airspace carrying military equipment for Assad’s regime. Shahristani said that because of Iraq’s economic ties with its eastern neighbour, it would only abide by UN sanctions, and not those implemented by Washington and Europe.

“Iraq has its own national interest,” he said. “Power generation is very critical … and there is no way we can fuel our new power stations, that are being constructed and will be ready before the end of the year, without having gas from Iran… given our geographical location, the only gas available to Iraq is from Iran now, and we have explained this to our American friends.”

Via:thecommentator

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