IRGC said Israeli 'strategic center' was among targets

Iraqi PM, Kurdish officials inspect Erbil site hit by Iranian missiles

Tehran says it won’t tolerate ‘sabotage’ and ‘conspiracy’ from its neighbor; Iranian ambassador summoned to Baghdad to protest attack, which marked escalation between US and Iran

A house damaged by an Iranian ballistic missile attack is seen in Erbil, Iraq, March 23, 2022. (AP Photo/ Ahmed Mzoori, Metrography)
A house damaged by an Iranian ballistic missile attack is seen in Erbil, Iraq, March 23, 2022. (AP Photo/ Ahmed Mzoori, Metrography)

Iraq’s prime minister met with Kurdish officials on Monday and inspected the site of an Iranian missile attack near the American consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil.

Mustafa al Kadhimi was received by Masrour Barzani, prime minister of the semi-autonomous Kurdish-controlled region.

The Iraqi premier also inspected damage caused by some 12 ballistic missiles that landed near the US consulate, which is new and unoccupied, and caused damage to a nearby local television channel.

Iran claimed responsibility for Sunday’s missile barrage, calling it retaliation for an Israeli strike in Syria that killed two members of its Revolutionary Guard last week. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said the missiles hit an Israeli “strategic center” among other targets.

No injuries were reported in the attack on Erbil. But it marked a significant escalation between the US and Iran and upset Iraq’s leadership, which called it a “violation of international law and norms” and summoned the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad in protest. Hostility between the US and Iran has often played out in Iraq, whose government is allied with both countries.

Iran, in turn, has warned that it won’t tolerate “threats” coming from Iraq.

“It is not at all acceptable that one of our neighbors that has deep relations with us… becomes a center for creating threats against the Islamic Republic,” said Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh speaks during a press conference in Tehran, on March 14, 2022 (AFP)

“Iran will not tolerate that a center near its borders becomes the center for sabotage, conspiracy and sending terrorist groups to Iran,” he said at his weekly press conference in Tehran.

Khatibzadeh said that the federal government of Iraq “has been notified several times… not to allow Iraq’s borders with Iran to become insecure.”

“Iran expects the central government of Iraq to end this situation once and for all and not allow its borders to be abused,” he added.

Kurdish authorities, however, insisted that the Jewish state has no sites in or near Erbil, the capital of their autonomous region.

An Iraqi official in Baghdad said al-Kadhimi’s visit to Erbil Monday was meant to express solidarity with the Kurdistan region and show support for its government. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the visit.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan gives an update about Ukraine during a press briefing at the White House, on February 11, 2022, in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The United States also condemned the attack. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement the attack targeted a civilian residence in Erbil “without any justification.”

“We will support the Government of Iraq in holding Iran accountable, and we will support our partners throughout the Middle East in confronting similar threats from Iran,” he said.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Sunday called al-Kadhimi and Barzani to express solidarity and denounce the attacks.

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