Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has claimed responsibility for ballistic missile attacks that hit Erbil, in the northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan, Tehran state media reported on March 13.
Specifically, according to the statement by the Iranian forces, the attacks targeted Israel’s “strategic center” in the country. “Any repetition of attacks by Israel will meet with a harsh, decisive and destructive response,” the statement added. The reference goes to the episode dating back to March 7, in which an Israeli air strike in Syria killed 4 people, including 2 officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. In this regard, Tehran had promised revenge on 9 March .
According to the Kurdish officials’ version, a dozen ballistic missiles launched outside Iraq hit the region. In particular, the governor of Erbil, Omed Khoshnaw, pointed out to the local broadcaster Rudaw that a terrorist attack was underway against the United States Consulate in the country. No casualties have been reported so far.
A US State Department spokesperson called the incident an “outrageous attack” but reiterated that no Americans were injured and there was no damage to US government facilities in Erbil. Even the prime minister of the Iraqi Kurdistan regional government, Masrour Barzani, condemned the attack, writing on Twitter: “Erbil will not bow to cowards. I strongly condemn the terrorist attack in various places in Erbil ”.
In the past, US forces stationed at the Erbil International Airport complex have been the subject of several rocket and drone attacks that Washington officials attribute to pro-Iranian armed groups. For this reason, the US has repeatedly called on Iraq to protect its diplomatic missions in the country, warning that, in the event of a lack of security, Washington will be forced to protect itself in its own way. This is because, as pointed out by the US consul in Erbil, Rob Waller, the pro-Iranian armed groups represent a threat to all diplomatic missions.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran on Iraqi soil have often raised concerns that Iraq could become a battleground between the two rivals. The climax was reached with the death of the general in charge of the Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, and of the deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, killed on 3 January 2020 following a raid ordered by the former chief of the White House, Donald Trump, against Baghdad International Airport.
In 2021, the United States initiated a gradual reduction of its troops in Iraq, currently at 2,500. The decision of last April 7, taken by Iraq and the USA during the last round of the strategic dialogue, with which it was established that the US combat troops, engaged in the fight against the Islamic State, would leave Iraq, fits into this framework. . Then, on July 26, the President of the United States, Joe Biden, and the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, signed an agreement aimed at formally closing the US combat mission in Iraq by the end of 2021. As specified from Biden, it is a “change” of the mission. In particular, Washington said it was willing to continue to “train.