Israeli forces have been conducting airstrikes against Iranian forces in Syria; last week, their range expanded to include strikes targeted at weapons storage facilities and Iranian-tied paramilitary groups in Iraq and Lebanon.
The latest strike occurred this morning in Lebanon, when Israeli drones bombed a Hezbollah site near the border of Syria. Prior to that there had been strikes near Beirut, targeted to Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters.
The Lebanese government has strongly denounced the attacks.
“What happened is a declaration of war…This allows us to resort to our right to defend our sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”Lebanese President Michel Aoun, via Al Jazeera
Meanwhile, the series of attacks inside of Iraq have drawn similar criticism from the Iraqi government. Iraqi President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi issued a joint response to the attacks.
The two leaders called the strikes an “attack on Iraqi sovereignty” and called for national unity, according to a statement cited by Iraq’s state news agency.Reuters
The United States has forces inside Iraq and has been working to minimize the influence of Iran on the large Iraqi Shi’ite population. Iraqi Shi’ites have been using the occasion of the strikes to condemn the U.S., claiming that American forces have been providing air support for the attacks. The tensions heighten the danger for U.S. operations in Iraq.
The Department of Defense has now released an official statement denying such support:
U.S. forces did not conduct the recent attack on a convoy or any recent attacks that resulted in the explosion of ammunition storage facilities in Iraq. Statements to the contrary are false, misleading, and inflammatory.
We support Iraqi sovereignty and have repeatedly spoken out against any potential actions by external actors inciting violence in Iraq. The government of Iraq has the right to control their own internal security and protect their democracy. They are conducting an investigation into the recent attacks accordingly.
As guests of Iraq, U.S. forces operate at the invitation of the Iraqi government and comply with all laws and directions. Furthermore, we are fully cooperating with the investigation.
Elections are due to be held in Israel on September 17. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing his strongest challenge from the Blue and White party of Benny Gantz, which shares many of the traditionally conservative policy stances of Netanyahu’s Likud but which has been standing against charges of corruption in the Likud and for greater incorporation of divergent viewpoints in daily governance.