The US State Department condemned on Sunday a missile strike claimed by Iran that struck near a sprawling American consulate in Iraq’s northern city of Erbil overnight.
“The strikes were an outrageous violation of Iraq’s sovereignty. No US facilities were damaged or personnel injured, and we have no indications the attack was directed at the United States,” a statement said.
It added: “Iran must immediately cease its attacks, respect Iraqi sovereignty, and halt its interference in Iraq’s internal affairs. The United States stands with our Iraqi partners, including in the Kurdistan Region, and will help our partners in the region defend themselves.”
In Baghdad, the foreign ministry condemned the attack as a “flagrant violation of (Iraqi) sovereignty.”
Iraq summoned the ambassador of its ally Iran, Iraj Masjidi, to protest the strikes, which it said caused “material losses” and “damage to civilian installations and houses.”
The authorities in northern Iraq said 12 ballistic missiles rained down on Erbil in the pre-dawn cross-border attack that lightly wounded two civilians.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards confirmed that they fired the projectiles, saying the attack targeted sites used by Israel, a top ally of the US.
A “strategic center for conspiracy and mischiefs of the Zionists was targeted by powerful precision missiles fired by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” the Guards said in a statement.
Iran holds considerable influence over the federal government in Baghdad, and Iraq hosts a dwindling number of US troops who lead a coalition against the Islamic State jihadist group.
Sunday’s missile assault comes nearly a week after the Guards — Iran’s ideological army — vowed to avenge the death of two of their officers killed in a rocket attack in Syria, which they blamed on Israel. Iran backs the government in Syria’s civil war.
Israel, the Guards said at the time, “will pay for this crime.”
The Guards, in their statement, said: “Once again, we warn the criminal Zionist regime that the repetition of any mischief will face harsh, decisive, and destructive responses.”
Erbil governor Oumid Khouchnaw, however, dismissed as “baseless” any notion of Israeli sites in and around Erbil.
“There are no Israeli sites in the region.”
Although some Kurdish politicians have called for normalization with Israel, officials in Erbil have steered clear of the sensitive issue.
The governor told a news conference that the missiles crashed into vacant lots but that buildings and homes were damaged.
The interior ministry in Erbil had earlier said a “new building” housing the US consulate in a residential suburb of the city was the target.
Kurdistan24 television channel, located near the US consulate, posted images on social networks of its damaged offices, with collapsed sections of false ceiling and broken glass.
‘Endanger’ nuclear agreement
Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia expressed “solidarity” with Iraq and support for measures “to protect its security and stability.”
Iraq saw a surge in rocket and armed-drone attacks at the beginning of the year.
It coincided with the second anniversary of the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and his Iraqi lieutenant Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport.
In late January, six rockets were fired at Baghdad International Airport, causing no casualties.
Iran had responded to the 2020 killing by firing missiles at military bases in Iraq housing US forces.
Sunday’s assault also comes during a pause in negotiations between Iran and world powers to revive its 2015 nuclear agreement, despite a deal having appeared close.
The setback came after Russia said it was demanding guarantees that Western sanctions imposed on its own economy over its invasion of Ukraine would not affect Moscow’s trade with Tehran.
The French foreign ministry condemned Sunday’s attack in the “strongest terms,” and said such actions “endanger the efforts to enable a return” to the nuclear deal.