BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday it was “astonished” at a Reuters report that Iran had moved missiles to Iraq and that the article was “without evidence”, but stopped short of denying its contents.
“Iraq is not obliged to respond to media reports that lack tangible evidence backing up their claims and allegations,” the ministry said in a statement.
“All state institutions in Iraq uphold Article 7 of the constitution, which prohibits the use of Iraqi land as a base or passage to be used in operations targeting the security of other states.”
Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources told Reuters that Iran had given ballistic missiles to Shi’ite proxies in Iraq and was developing the capacity to build more there.
The Iraqi government and military declined to comment at the time. In Sunday’s statement, the Foreign Ministry said it was “astonished at the allegations” contained in the report.
Iran on Saturday rejected the report, which it said aimed to hurt Iran’s ties with neighbors.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter he was “deeply concerned” by news that Iran was transferring ballistic missiles into Iraq. He urged Iraqi leaders to form a new government quickly after a May 12 parliamentary election.
Any sign Iran is preparing a more aggressive missile policy in Iraq will exacerbate tensions between Tehran and Washington, already heightened by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
It would also embarrass France, Germany and Britain, the three European signatories to the nuclear deal, as they have been trying to salvage the agreement despite new U.S. sanctions against Tehran.
According to three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources, Iran has transferred short-range ballistic missiles to allies in Iraq over the last few months. Five of the officials said it was helping those groups to start making their own.
Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Dale Hudson