Iraq Shuts Down all Air Travel to Stop Israeli Strikes on Iranian Installations

Thus said Hashem: See, I am rousing a destructive wind Against Babylon and the inhabitants of Leb-kamai. Jeremiah 51:1 (The Israel Bible™)

On Friday, Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi established new guidelines, declaring his country’s airspace off-limits to military traffic from other countries including the U.S. 

“The prime minister ordered to revoke all special flight permits in Iraqi airspace for reconnaissance aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft with weapons, fighters, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles of all kinds available to the Iraqi and non-Iraqi sides”, an official Iraq government statement  said after an Iraqi National Security Council meeting this week.

“All authorities are required to comply with this order. Any flights that violate this regulation will be considered an aggression, which our air defense will immediately respond to,” the statement added. 

This warning includes U.S. coalition forces fighting in the anti-Islamic State (ISIS) Operation Inherent Resolve which have been using Iraqi airspace since 2014.

The U.S. military released a statement expressing its resolve to comply with the conditions.

“As guests within Iraq’s sovereign borders, CJTF-OIR complies with all Iraqi laws and direction from the Government of Iraq,” the release said. “The U.S.-led coalition immediately complied with all directions received from our Iraqi partners as they implemented the Prime Minister’s order.”

Some U.S. military officials were concerned over the operational constraints the new requirements would entail. The new directive also calls for military bases and weapons caches to be moved away from major cities.

The Iraqi government granted the pro-Iranian militias one month to distance their military assets from cities. This is expected to hamper their operation but they have ignored such directives from the Iraqi government in the past. 

The Iraqi move comes in the wake of massive explosions last Monday at former U.S. military Camp Falcon, also known as al-Saqr, near Baghdad. The camp was being used by local pro-Iranian Shiite militia as a weapons stockpile and command center. The camp reportedly had a consignment of ballistic missile launchers recently transferred from Iran hidden inside food-delivery trucks. Arab media blamed either Israel or the U.S.but neither government commented. Before the incident at al-Saqr, Israel carried out two unmanned aerial vehicle strikes against Iranian military assets in Iraq. This was the 16th such explosion in the last three years. 

The Iraqi warning comes at a time that the Turkish Air Force is conducting strikes against Kurdistan Workers Party’s positions in Iraq. The Iraqi government has regularly condemned the Turkish strikes as violations of their sovereignty.