In retaliation for an Israeli strike in Syria that killed two members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard earlier this week, Iran said it had launched a missile barrage at a sprawling U.S. consulate complex in Irbil, northern Iraq.
Irbil was attacked on Sunday, which marked a significant escalation between the U.S. and Iran. Iraq, whose government has ties to both countries, has often witnessed hostility between the countries’ longtime enemies.
Its website describes the attack as an attack on an Israeli spy center in Irbil by Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard. Israel said in a statement that it had been on the offensive, citing a recent missile strike that killed two Revolutionary Guardsmen. Iranian semi-official news agency Tasnim quoted an unnamed source as saying the country fired 10 Fateh missiles, including several Fateh-110 missiles, which have a range of about 300 kilometers (186 miles).
According to the source, the missile attack resulted in multiple casualties and the missiles were aimed at the “Zionist base, which is located far from the American military base.”
A senior Iraqi official said initially that several missiles had struck the U.S. consulate in Irbil, the intended target. According to Lawk Ghafari, the head of Kurdistan’s foreign media office, none of the missiles hit the U.S. facility, but rather residential areas around the facility were hit.
Specifically, he said that the lack of response from the international community to repeated attacks by Iran on Kurdistan was “of great concern” and encouraged further attacks.
A U.S. defense official said the attack came from neighboring Iran, but he did not specify how many missiles were fired or where they landed. Two U.S. officials confirmed that no damage was caused to any government facility and no indication had been made as to the target being the building, which is new and unoccupied.
Immediately after the attack, Kurdistan24, which is located near the U.S. consulate, went live from their studio, showing shattered glass and debris on the floor.
The attack came shortly after Iran vowed to retaliate for an Israeli strike that killed two of its Revolutionary Guards near Damascus, Syria. IRNA, the Iranian state news agency, reported Sunday that Iraqi media had acknowledged the attacks in Irbil, without saying where they originated.
There were tensions in the region at the time of the missile barrage. Over Russian demands about sanctions targeting Moscow for its war on Ukraine, negotiations over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal hit a “pause.” Meanwhile, Baghdad-brokered talks to defuse yearslong tensions with Saudi Arabia were suspended by Tehran, after Saudi Arabia carried out its largest known mass execution involving over 30 Dozen Shiites.
Matthew Tueller, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said that the U.S. condemns the criminal attack in Irbil on civilian targets. “Iranian regime elements have claimed responsibility for this attack and must be held accountable for this flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty,” he said in a statement posted by the U.S. consulate in Irbil.
U.S. forces stationed at Irbil’s airport compound have come under fire from rocket and drone attacks in the past, with U.S. ‘Iranian regime elements claimed responsibility for this attack and must be held accountable for this flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty,’
According to the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, Iranian and Iranian-backed militias pose a serious threat to U.S. troops and allies in Iraq and Syria.
Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie told The Associated Press that even though U.S. forces in Iraq have shifted to a non-combat role, Iran and its allies still want all U.S. troops out. And if we don’t, he said, that may trigger more attacks.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration announced that U.S. combat operations in Iraq would end on Dec. 31, and that U.S. forces would gradually shift to an advisory role. For Iraq’s fight against the Islamic State, the troops will still provide air support and other military aid.
A U.S. drone strike near the Baghdad airport in January 2020 killed a top Iranian general, setting off a new round of tensions between Tehran and Washington. U.S. troops were stationed at al-Asad airbase, where Iran retaliated with a barrage of missiles. The blasts caused traumatic brain injuries to more than 100 service members.
Recently, Iran’s proxies are thought to have attempted to assassinate Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi late last year.
According to officials, Iran is believed to have been behind the November drone attack on the military outpost where American troops are stationed in southern Syria. No American personnel were killed or injured in the attack.
Al-Kadhimi tweeted: “The aggression which targeted the dear city of Irbil and spread fear amongst its inhabitants is an attack on the security of our people.“
Prime Minister Masrour Barzani of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region condemned the attack. In a Facebook post, he said Irbil “will not bow to the cowards who carried out the terrorist attack.“