US AIRCRAFT are flying over Iraqi territory collecting intelligence on the country’s popular forces, a senior Iraqi expert said, adding that a drone that crashed this week was on a mission to raid Hashd al-Shaabi (the Iraqi popular resistance) forces.
Kazzem al-Haaj told the al-Ma’aloumeh news website on Sunday that violation of Iraq’s airspace by US forces is nothing new.
‘US drones have always collected intelligence on Hashd al-Shaabi forces and the areas they control, as well as the regions where the terrorists are deployed to give them protection and security,’ he added.
Al-Haaj pointed out that the US spy flights come as American army troops have widened moves and stretched their presence towards Syria.
The US spy drone which crashed in Northwestern Baghdad last Tuesday was carrying missiles.
An informed Iraqi source told the Arabic-language Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that this surveillance drone, which was armed with missiles, crashed in the farming al-Rezwaniyeh region in Northwestern Baghdad near the Iraqi capital’s international airport.
Asked whether it had come under attack, the source ruled this out, and that it had probably crashed due to a technical malfunction.
Meanwhile, the Arabic-language Boratha news website quoted a military expert as saying that the US was forced to confirm reports of the drone crash two days later.
He noted that the Americans’ claim that the drone was unharmed contradicts its malfunction, and strengthens speculation that it was attacked by electronic warfare tools which made it lose its return route and crash near Baghdad.
The revelation that the aircraft was armed with missiles has grabbed media attention as there are still unanswered questions about another air raid on an Iraqi popular forces military base last month.
An ‘unidentified, unmanned drone bombed the Al-Shuhada base of the Hashd al-Shaabi in Amerli region at dawn on July 19, wounding two people,’ the Iraqi military said in a statement.
The Arabic-language al-Etejah news channel quoted special sources in Nineveh province as saying that just prior to the Amerli attack, a US spy plane conducted reconnaissance operations against the Hashd al-Shaabi and Iraqi army forces over Sanjar mountain and the Southern areas of the region.
- Iranian Vice-President and Head of the Management and Planning Organisation, Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, said on Sunday that his country is determined to draft its new budget bill with zero-dependence on oil revenues, in a bid to thwart the US’ ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Tehran.
‘Given the difficult times of sanctions, we will be losing a considerable amount of budget resources; therefore, it is necessary to make sure that the reforms in the budget structure for the next year will be able to cut direct dependency on oil revenues to zero,’ Nobakht said, at the first session to draw up the budget structure for the next Iranian fiscal year (starting on March 20, 2020).
He said that even under normal circumstances, the country still needs to reduce its dependency on oil revenues.
‘For the first time, we have taken an important step towards reforming the country’s budget structure,’ he stressed.
Following the US’ unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last year, US President Donald Trump’s administration went ahead with re-imposing sanctions on Iran, targeting the country’s energy and banking sectors, and stepping up efforts to drive Iran’s oil revenues to zero.
In April, the White House announced its decision not to renew waivers that allow eight countries, including China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey, to buy Iranian oil without facing US sanctions.
Meanwhile, Iran says with or without waivers, the country’s oil exports will not fall to zero under any circumstances. At the same time, the country is making efforts to reduce its reliance on oil revenues and instead turn its focus on non-oil production and exports.
Last month, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani underlined the US failure to cut to zero his country’s oil exports, saying that Washington has been defeated by Iran’s smart moves.
- A senior Iranian military official said the low number of countries that have accepted the US request to join its military coalition in the Persian Gulf indicates the move has failed even before it’s started.
‘The Americans intend to form a coalition, but when we review this issue, we see that, except for one or two countries, other states have rejected join the coalition and it has failed even before it’s started,’ Head of Iran’s Army Centre for Strategic Studies, Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, said in Tehran on Saturday.
He underlined that all moves on the ground, air and sea, as well as those in and outside the country’s borders are monitored and analysed by the Iranian Armed Forces, and Iran adopts necessary measures and prepares defensive capacities proportionate to those moves.
The United States has been trying to persuade its allies into an international coalition with the declared aim of providing ‘security’ for merchant shipping in the Strait of Hormuz – which accommodates around a third of global seaborne oil traffic – and other strategic Middle Eastern shipping lanes.
Washington’s call has, however, been met with little interest from its allies, which are concerned that joining such an alliance could drag them into a conflict with Iran.
The French are noncommittal, while Germany, Italy and Sweden have rejected joining the alliance.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday said Berlin favoured a European mission but warned it was rather difficult to make progress on the initiative.
‘At the moment the Britons would rather join an American mission. We won’t do that,’ he said.
Last Wednesday, Berlin rejected Washington’s proposal.
‘The US recently presented its concept of a naval observation mission in the Persian Gulf to a number of its allies, including Germany, and asked them to participate.
‘The government took note of the proposal, but made no promises. Foreign Minister Maas has repeatedly stressed that, in our opinion, priority must be given to reducing tensions, and to diplomatic efforts.
‘We are in close consultation with France and the UK. Participation in the US strategy of “maximum pressure” is ruled out for us,’ the foreign ministry said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Iranian Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami, in separate phone talks with his Qatari, Omani and Kuwaiti counterparts, warned that the military coalition that the US is attempting to form in the Persian Gulf will undermine regional security.
General Hatami also highlighted Iran’s continued efforts to maintain peace and security all over the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz.
He stressed that the region’s security should be provided by the regional states, and called for a constructive dialogue among the neighbouring countries to boost their cooperation regarding the matter.
Noting that the trans-regional powers have been busy for decades with creating rifts among the neighboring countries, General Hatami reiterated that the US’ so-called coalition, just like its other measures, would bear no result but only increase tensions in the region.
Last Sunday, former IRGC Commander Mohsen Rezayee said that, despite the malicious efforts of the US and UK to claim control over the Strait of Hormuz with escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf region, Tehran will not allow such a thing to happen.
‘Americans and the British have been fanning the flames of war in the Persian Gulf region to pretend they have control over the Strait of Hormuz and the movement of vessels.
‘Of course, we will not allow this to happen. In the meantime, we expect cooperation from our friends in China,’ Rezayee said in a meeting with a senior Chinese delegation headed by Song Tao, the Head of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), in Tehran.
He added that Iran is not seeking war but will defend itself, while the Americans want conflict and seek to increase the tensions.
‘Persian Gulf security is our security and we have to respond to their attacks and destabilizing actions in order to maintain security,’ the Secretary of the Iranian Expediency Council (EC) said, adding, ‘We want free shipping and security in the Persian Gulf.
‘We live in the energy region of the world. Any kind of insecurity and conflict in this region would harm global peace and security,’ Rezayee warned.