JERUSALEM, Israel - Since October, Iraqi civilians have been shot down in the streets by their own government for protesting widespread corruption, unemployment, and Iran's constant meddling in the country.
The New York Times reported Thursday that Iran is exploiting the chaos in Iraq to smuggle and hide a stockpile of short-range ballistic missiles to potentially use against Israel and other regional enemies.
Officials told the Times that Iranian-backed Shiite militias that control some of the infrastructures in Iraq are helping Iran hide weapons there.
"People are not paying enough attention to the fact that ballistic missiles in the last year have been placed in Iraq by Iran with the ability to project violence on the region," Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) told the newspaper in an interview.
Intelligence officials say Iran is waging a shadow war. Although they did not give details about the model of ballistic missile Iran is exporting to Iraq, short-range missiles fired from Baghdad could reach Jerusalem.
The weapons cache also presents a security threat to US forces in the region as relations between Tehran and Washington continue to deteriorate.
Iraq is a strategic position for Iran. If the US or Israel conducted airstrikes on the Islamic Republic, Iranian forces can easily fire rockets at Israel or an enemy gulf country like Saudi Arabia from Iraq.
The US and Europe blame Iran for a major missile strike on Saudi oil fields in September. Iran denies its involvement.
Meanwhile, Iraqis "do not want to be led around on a leash by the Iranians," Slotkins told the Times. "But, unfortunately, due to the chaos and confusion in the Iraqi central government, Iran is paradoxically the best poised to take advantage of the grass-roots unrest."
The US warned Iran was stockpiling weapons in Iraq last year, and Israel launched a massive attack several months ago aimed at destroying Iranian weaponry there.
In the meantime, the US continues its "maximum pressure" sanctions campaign against Iran to stop it from obtaining nuclear weapons.
But France, Germany, and the United Kingdom said in a letter to the UN circulated Wednesday that Iran is developing "nuclear-capable ballistic missiles."
Ambassadors from the three countries urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to inform the council that Iran's missile activity is "inconsistent" with a council resolution endorsing the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOS) nuclear deal with Iran.
The letter also cites footage released on social media April 22, 2019, of a flight test of a previously unknown Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile "equipped with a maneuverable re-entry vehicle." The letter says: "The Shahab-3 booster used in the test is a Missile Technology Control Regime category-1 system and as such is technically capable of delivering a nuclear weapon."
The UN Security Council has a meeting scheduled on Dec. 19 to discuss the implementation of the 2015 resolution on the Iran nuclear deal.