Iran created 'new deterrent policy' with Israel attack, says top Iraqi security official

National security adviser Qasim Al Araji tells The National that Baghdad is holding talks in bid to de-escalate regional tensions

Iraq's national security adviser Qasim Al Araji said Israel's attack on the Iranian consulate in Syria 'crossed red lines'. Getty Images
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest on Israel-Gaza

A top Iraqi security official has told The National that Iran's unprecedented direct attack on Israel at the weekend created a “new deterrent policy” in the region.

However, national security adviser Qasim Al Araji warned that further escalation of the conflict would undermine stability in the Middle East.

In an exclusive interview on Wednesday, Mr Al Araji said Baghdad was working with other “influential” countries in efforts to de-escalate tensions against the backdrop of the Israel-Gaza war, which has now entered its seventh month.

Iran attacked Israel overnight on Saturday in retaliation for an Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1. It was Tehran's first known direct attack against its regional foe and marked the start of a new chapter in the confrontation between the two countries.

“A new map and a policy of deterrence in the region” has been established by the attack, Mr Al Araji said, while attending the two-day Sulaimani Forum for policymakers and experts in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah.

Israel said 99 per cent of the more than 300 missiles and drones were intercepted.

Mr Al Araji hailed the Iranian response as “unprecedented and historic and at the same time disciplined because it didn’t target economic or civilian institutions that may escalate the situation”.

“Iran wanted to send a message that it has the capability to respond and I think Israel got the message,” he stressed.

On Tuesday, sources close to Tehran said that Iran was gearing up to counter an Israeli retaliation, possibly within its borders, after Israel said it had decided to respond to the Iranian attack. Iranian military and political leaders have determined a specific level of Israeli response that could be tolerable, even if on Iranian soil, without provoking severe retaliation from Tehran, the sources added.

Mr Al Araji said that based on intelligence and analysis, Israel is expected to target locations in the region rather than inside Iran.

Undermining regional stability

But for the Iraqi official, “the new escalation will undermine the stability in the entire region”.

His warning echoes growing international concern over the escalating tensions between Iran and Israel. The spectre of a wider conflict looms large over the region, with the potential for devastating consequences for millions of people caught in the crossfire.

In addition to the immediate humanitarian toll, a new escalation could have far-reaching implications for global energy markets and the ongoing fight against extremism.

“The Iranian-Israeli conflict has continued and there have been many attacks by Israel against Iranian sites that led to the martyrdom of senior military figures,” said Mr Al Araji.

“But the latest attack against the Iranian consulate in Syria has for sure crossed red lines and led to the response … [Iran] has the right to respond as self-defence.”

Following the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war on October 7, militant groups in Iraq and Syria began attacking US troops as part of a co-ordinated front, demanding an immediate ceasefire in the Palestinian territory run by their ally Hamas.

However, the last strike by those militias was on February 4. The cessation of attacks against US forces was part of an “unannounced truce” that included Tehran and the Iraqi government, sources in Beirut and Baghdad told The National last month.

The shift happened after an attack that killed three US soldiers at the Jordanian-Syrian border at the end of January and subsequent US retaliation against militias.

Mr Al Araji said Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani, on a week-long visit to Washington, is holding talks with “influential” countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, for de-escalation.

On Tuesday in Washington, Mr Al Sudani said he did not want Iraq to be involved in any escalation of the conflict in the Middle East after Iran used Iraqi air space to launch its attack against Israel.

Updated: April 18, 2024, 5:51 AM