Baghdad has cautioned Israel against flying over Iraqi airspace en route to an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Monday’s statements marked the first time the Iraqi government has publicly declared it would not allow such an action.
“We have… warned Israel that if they violate Iraqi airspace, they will have to bear the consequences,” Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani told AFP. He added that Iraq would not disclose what the reaction might be to such an overflight, so that Israel will not able to “take that into account.”
Shahristani also said that Iraq has received assurances from the US that America “will never violate Iraqi airspace or Iraqi sovereignty by using our airspace to attack any of our neighbors.”
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.
The Iranian government says its nuclear program is for civilian use, but Iran is widely believed by the West and the Arab world to be racing to develop nuclear weapons technology, which would dramatically change the balance of power in the Middle East.
The most recent report from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, in May, stated that Iran was continuing its program and had recently brought online hundreds of high speed centrifuges needed to create highly-enriched uranium, a necessary component for a nuclear weapon.