An Iraqi defense official blamed Israel for carrying out strikes in the country with US backing.
Following the series of explosions earlier this week in a weapons depot controlled by an Iranian-backed militia in Baghdad, the official told Asharq Al-Awsat that “It is obvious that we are confronted with a real bone-grinding battle between the United States and Israel on the one hand, and Iran and its allies in Iraq on the other.”
“It is also obvious that both sides have chosen Iraq as the ground for their undeclared battle,” he added, asserting that “All signs indicate that Israel is completing, with US backing, what it started in Syria by striking Iranian targets.”
The blasts occurred Monday evening in the Saqr military base in in southwestern Baghdad, which houses a weapons depot for the Iraqi federal police and the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group of mostly Shi’ite militias backed by Iran.
On Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, the interior minister, and commanders in the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) inspected the explosion site. The PM had ordered a probe into the incident, urging officials at weapons depots and training camps throughout the country to take “necessary safety precautions to avoid such unfortunate incidents.”
According to the London-based newspaper, conflicting reports have emerged over the possibility that the depot may have been targeted by Israeli or US aircraft, while others speculated that the blasts may have been due to an accident at the site.
Iraqi Vice President Bahaa al-Aaraji said that the nature of the fire and blast at the camp reveals that it housed “weapons that are not used by Iraqi forces or even the PMF.”
“We can conclude that the weapons were being stored for safe keeping by a neighboring country and were targeted by an unjust colonial state based on a treasonous Iraq tip off,” he tweeted in clear reference to Iran storing arms in Iraq, according to Asharq Al-Awsat.
The newspaper also reported that a member of the PMF, Adel al-Karaawi suspected that the US may have been behind the weapons depot explosion. Speaking on TV, he said the US may have used an armed drone to carry out the attack. He predicted that more strikes will take place in the future “if we do not seize control of Iraqi airspace, especially after Israeli jets have also flown over Iraqi territory.”
Last month, Asharq Al-Awsat reported that Israel had carried out airstrikes against two Iranian targets northeast of Baghdad.