Iran has claimed responsibility for a missile strike near an expansive US consulate complex in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil. The Iranians maintain the action was retaliation for an Israeli strike in Syria last week that supposedly killed two members of their Revolutionary Guard.
There were no reports of injuries in Sunday’s attack, but the incident has undoubtedly heightened already strained tensions between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Missiles Were Capable of Carrying a Nuclear Warhead
On its website, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard states that the intended target was an Israeli spy center in Irbil. An Iranian private news agency, Tasnim, reported that their nation had launched 10 Fateh missiles into their neighbor. This included multiple Fateh-110 missiles, which, according to Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, have a range of up to 350 km and can carry a nuclear warhead.
Tasnims unnamed source stated that their attack resulted in multiple casualties at a “Zionist base, far from the American military base.”
Initially, Baghdad’s initial reports said several missiles had hit the US consulate in Irbil. These were later walked back by Lawk Ghafari, head of Kurdistan’s foreign media office, saying that a residential area around the compound, and not the compound itself, had been impacted.
In a Twitter post, Ghafari went on to say that he believes that what he sees as a lack of reaction by the international community is of “great concern” to his people and would possibly encourage future attacks by Tehran.
The Intended Target Was Not Clear
It is not clear whether the intended target was the US consulate or a nearby airport that serves as a base housing a US-led contingent fighting elements of ISIS. The Biden administration decided to end the US combat mission in Iraq by December 31 of last year, while forces moved into an advisory role. Still, our troops continue to provide air support and other forms of military aid for Iraq’s fight against the Islamic State.
Matthew Tueller, the US ambassador to Iraq, condemned the attack on civilians in Irbil and labeled the matter as criminal. In a statement posted by the US consulate in Irbil, he stated, “Iranian regime elements have claimed responsibility for this attack and must be held accountable for this flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty.”
The US presence in Iraq has caused regional tensions for many years now but rose to a new level after a January 2020 US drone strike outside Baghdad killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and nine other people. The attack triggered a retaliatory strike from Iran in which they launched a barrage of missiles at the al-Asad airbase, injuring numerous US troops.
The Trump administration declared the IRC a terrorist organization in 2019 accusing them of supporting terrorist groups in places like Yemen, Iraq, and Syria with as much as $1 Billion in weapons a year The Biden administration is said to be weighing a demand by Iran to remove this designation as part the effort to sign a new deal with Iran over their continued development of nuclear weapons.