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Iraq–Israel relations

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Iraq–Israel relations
Map indicating locations of Iraq and Israel



Iraq does not recognize Israel and consequently the two countries do not have any formal diplomatic relations. Iraq declared war on the newly established Jewish state in 1948 and since then the two countries have technically been in a state of war.[1] Iraqi forces participated in wars against Israel in 1967 and 1973.

In 1981, Israel, claiming a threat to its national security, bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor under construction at Al Tuwaitha, southeast of Baghdad, to which Iraq did not respond. During the Persian Gulf War (1990-91), Iraq fired 42 modified Scud ballistic missiles at Israel, to which Israel did not respond militarily, because of pressure from the United States not to retaliate.

Iraq continues to be a strong supporter of the Arab League boycott of Israel. Iraqi passports are invalid for travel to Israel and Israeli passports are invalid for entry into Iraq. Under Israeli law, Iraq and a number of other Arab and Muslim countries are designated "enemy states" which an Israeli citizen may not visit without a special permit issued by the Israeli Interior Ministry.


Until the 2003 Iraq War

The British in the 1930s built the Mosul–Haifa oil pipeline from Western Iraq through the British-ruled Emirate of Transjordan then to Haifa, in Mandatory Palestine. During the Anglo-Iraqi War, the Irgun - an Israeli independence movement - participated in the British invasion of Iraq.[2] Immediately after the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948, Arab armies, including those of Iraq, invaded the former Mandate Palestine territory, and the oil pipeline to Haifa was shut down, and the pipeline diverted through a branch line to Tripoli in Syria. Following the war, Iraq was the only Arab country not to sign a ceasefire agreement with Israel, and the two countries have technically been in a continuous state of war since 1948.[1]

Despite not sharing a border with Israel, Iraq was an important player in the Arab–Israeli conflict. Iraqi troops present in Jordan became involved in the Six-Day War in 1967, suffering 10 dead. The war ended before the Iraqis had time to undertake any serious offensive action. Iraq played a much more important role in the Yom Kippur War, when it sent 30,000 men, 250–500 tanks, and 700 APCs to the Syrian front just as the Syrians were on the verge of collapse. Combined Syrian, Iraqi and Jordanian counterattacks prevented the Israelis from advancing further into Syria, but failed to push the Israelis back. The war ended in an Arab defeat, with Israeli forces standing 40 km from Damascus.

Under Saddam Hussein's rule, Israel regarded Iraq as a major security threat. Military action was taken by Israel when they bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, citing that Saddam Hussein might use it to develop nuclear weapons. Iraq, busy with the Iran–Iraq War, did not respond. Throughout the war, Israel provided clandestine support to Iran, viewing Iraq as a more serious threat than Iran.

During the Gulf War in 1991, without provocation, Iraq fired 42 Scud missiles at Israel, aiming to drag Israel into the war and thus imperil the US-led coalition, in which several Arab countries participated. Upon urging by the United States of Israel to stay out of the war, Israel did not retaliate.

According to British author Nigel Ashton, in 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin sent a message to Hussein through King Hussein of Jordan requesting a meeting between him and Hussein. Rabin hoped peace with Iraq might encourage Iran and Syria to do the same. Rabin was assassinated in November, ending the contact between the two governments.[3] Rabin had previously supervised Operation Bramble Bush, a failed 1992 plan to assassinate Hussein with Sayeret Matkal commandos.[4]

Saddam Hussein was widely revered in Arab world for his pro-Palestinian stance and he supported several Palestinian guerrilla and militant organisations. During the second Palestinian intifada, Iraq gave monetary support to the families of Palestinian martyrs, including suicide bombers.[5]

Since the 2003 war in Iraq

In 2003, a US-UK led coalition of nations toppled Hussein's government in an effort called Operation Iraqi Freedom. Although Israel was not included in the coalition, there were indications of its support. According to John Kerry, Netanyahu (as a private citizen) was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq.[6] It was reported in the Washington Post that Israel is urging United States' officials not to delay a military strike against Iraq's Saddam Hussein[7] It was also reported that Israeli intelligence provided Washington with alarming reports about Iraq's alleged program to develop weapons of mass destruction.[8]

On the contrary, some have argued that Israel did not have much role in pushing for the war. According to former US Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, Israeli officials did not push their US counterparts to initiate the war in Iraq. In an interview with Ynet, Feith stated that "what you heard from the Israelis was not any kind of advocacy of war with Iraq" and that "[w]hat you heard from Israeli officials in private discussions was that they were not really focused on Iraq... [t]hey were much more focused on Iran."[9]

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said in 2004 that Iraq would not reconcile its differences with Israel.[10]

On 1 July 2008, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak shook hands and met briefly with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani at a conference of Socialist International in Greece. Barak and Talabani were both at the conference as representatives of their respective political parties, Labour and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.[11]

Iraqi MP Mithal al-Alusi has twice visited Israel; once in 2004 and again in 2008, drawing protest from many in the Iraqi government. He has called for diplomatic relations and military intelligence sharing between Iraq and Israel.[12][13]

During the Gaza War (2008–09), the Iraqi government condemned Israel for the attack, stating that: "the Iraqi government demands a halt to the military operations, that civilians’ lives are not unnecessarily exposed to danger and requests that the international community honour its responsibilities and take the required measures to stop the attack".[14] The Dawa Party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called on Islamic countries to cut relations with Israel and end all "secret and public talks" with it.[15] Also, the Iraqi Shia leader Ali al-Sistani, has called for decisive action by Arab and Muslim states for an end to Israeli attacks on Gaza. Though he condemned the operation, he stated that "supporting our brothers only with words is meaningless, considering the big tragedy they are facing."[16] After the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid, an Iraqi government official, MP Khairallah al-Basri (a member of former premier Nouri al-Maliki's Islamist State of Law Coalition), condemned the attack and described it as a "new humanitarian disaster," as well as, "a violation of human rights and a breach of international standards and norms."[17] In July 2012 Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that Iraq will establish diplomatic relations with all countries except Israel.[18]

Some Iraqi officials and Kurdish leaders have accused the Iraqi government of secretly smuggling oil to Israel. Kurdish MP, Farhad al-Atroushi, accused the Iraqi government of smuggling oil to Israel via Jordan. The allegation was denied by Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani and Jordan's Information and Communication Minister Rakan al-Majali. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki denied the allegation as well and in turn accused Iraqi Kurdistan of smuggling oil to Israel.[19][20]

Before the 2017 Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum, Israel was the only major world power that supported the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan. In the subsequent Iraqi offensive against the Kurds (known as the Kirkuk Crisis), the Iraqi army quickly overran territories captured by the Kurdish Peshmerga outside the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan during the war on ISIL, including the city of Kirkuk. During the brief war, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lobbied world powers to prevent further setbacks for the Iraqi Kurds,[21]

See also


  1. ^ a b [1][dead link]
  2. ^ Nir Mann (22 April 2010). "A life underground". Haaretz. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  3. ^ Verteryesterday, Yossi (27 February 2009). "British Author: Rabin Asked Jordan to Arrange Secret Visit With Saddam - Haaretz - Israel News". Haaretz.com. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  4. ^ "Israel reveals plot to kill Saddam in 1992". Rediff.com. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  5. ^ "Palestinians get Saddam funds". BBC. 13 March 2003. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  6. ^ Avi Lewis & Lazar Berman (25 February 2015). "Top US diplomat questions prime minister's judgement as rift over nuclear talks deepens". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  7. ^ Kayer, J (16 August 2002). "Israel urges U.S. to attack". The Washington Post.
  8. ^ Alon, Gideon (13 August 2002). "Sharon Panel: Iraq is our biggest danger". Haaretz.
  9. ^ "Doug Feith: Israel didn't push for Iraq War". Ynetnews. 13 May 2008.
  10. ^ "Iraq not to establish diplomatic ties with Israel: Allawi". People's Daily. 27 July 2004.
  11. ^ "Historic Handshake: Barak Meets Iraq's President in Athens". Haaretz.com. 1 July 2008. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  12. ^ Iraq may execute MP for Israel visit[permanent dead link], Jerusalem Post, 22 September 2008
  13. ^ Iraqi court clears lawmaker of charge of visiting Israel: his lawyer, Xinhua, 24 November 2008
  14. ^ "Iraqi Gov. Condemns Israeli airstrikes on Gaza". Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. 28 December 2008. Archived from the original on 3 October 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2008.
  15. ^ "Gaza protests extend from Mideast to Europe - World news - Mideast/N. Africa - Israel-Palestinians | NBC News". MSNBC.msn.com. 29 December 2008. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  16. ^ "Al-Sistani slams Arab inaction on Gaza". Press TV. 29 December 2008. Archived from the original on 30 December 2008. Retrieved 29 December 2008.
  17. ^ Attack on Gaza flotilla 'humanitarian disaster', says Iraq official, Earth Times, Deutsche Presse Agentur, 31 May 2010
  18. ^ Baghdad welcomes all relations but rejects ties with Israel: Iraqi PM Archived 21 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Al Arabiya, Al Arabiya News, 1 July 2012
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 July 2014. Retrieved 9 December 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 14 November 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ "Netanyahu lobbies world powers to stem Iraqi Kurd setbacks". Reuters. 2017.