On 26 August, the Iranian government strongly condemned the recent Israeli airstrikes in the region. “Israel has added to its record a new black page by the recent strikes against Syria, Lebanon and Iraq,” said Iranian government spokesman, Ali Rubaie, during a news conference in Tehran. “Iran condemns any aggression against the sovereignty of any state,” he said, adding that “Iran confirms the right of Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah to respond to the Israeli attack.” On 25 August, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force Commander, Major General Qassem Soleimani, issued another statement. The commander described the “insane operations” as “the last struggles of the Zionist regime.” He threatened to conduct attacks employing “killer drones” in northern Israel.
These statements form the first official acknowledgment by the Iranian government of the Israeli airstrikes affecting multiple PMF sites in Iraq in July and August. Initial reluctance to officially address the controversial airstrikes was assessed to be influenced by Iranian intent to downplay these developments, and afford Iran plausible deniability for the retaliatory actions of its proxies. However, as the series of incidents grew and gained widespread attention, the Iranian government finally spotlighted these events and boldly encouraged its proxies to conduct retaliatory actions against Israel. Although US complicity was not mentioned in the statement, the possibility of retaliatory actions against US and allied interests in Iraq remains elevated as previously discussed in this report.
Related developments also encompassed the controversy surrounding the latest airstrike against an Iranian proxy in western Anbar. At approximately 16:00 on 25 August, reports from various sources indicated two unidentified aircraft conducted an airstrike targeting a 45th PMF Brigade headquarters in the Salum area, located southeast of Al Qaim city. The aircraft subsequently targeted 45th PMF Brigade personnel in two vehicles travelling away from the base on Highway 20, located approximately 15 kms from the Syrian border in western Al Qaim district. According to the PMF, one Kata’ib Hezbollah member was killed, and another was wounded during the airstrike against the convoy. Unconfirmed accounts from an unnamed security sources cited as many as six PMF fatalities.
One of the deceased PMF members was identified as Kata’ib Hezbollah logistic support director, Kazim Alwan Mohsen Ali Al-Dabi. An unnamed Kata’ib Hezbollah source reported that Ali Al-Dabi also operated as part of a Kata’ib Hezbollah unit that specialized in indirect fire. On the evening of 25 August, hundreds of individuals commemorated Ali Al-Dabi during a funeral procession in Baghdad. Participants allegedly chanted anti-US and Israeli slogans during the march.
On 26 August, a prominent Iraqi parliamentary bloc called for the withdrawal of US forces in Iraq in the aftermath of the latest airstrikes. “While we reserve the right to respond to these Zionist attacks, we hold the international coalition, particularly the United States, fully responsible for this aggression which we consider a declaration of war on Iraq and its people,” said a statement by the Fatah Coalition. As stated, a unilateral airstrike conducted by a nation in the territory of another sovereign nation can amount to an act of war. That said, the Fatah Coalition’s statement does not amount to the Iraqi parliament declaring war on Israel, nor is such an act anticipated.