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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

In Response to the Killing of Two IRGC Colonels, Iran Fired Missiles near the U.S. Consulate in Erbil

Filed under: Iran, Iraq

In Response to the Killing of Two IRGC Colonels, Iran Fired Missiles near the U.S. Consulate in Erbil
The ruins of a residential building in Erbil hit by Iranian missiles (Screengrab, K24 English)1

The IRGC Takes Responsibility for the Ballistic-Missile Fire on Iraq

Twelve short-range ballistic missiles, fired from Iran, landed close to the U.S. consulate in Erbil, which is in the building stage, and to the offices of the Kurdish television network Kurdistan24 in northern Iraq. U.S. security forces and intelligence operatives are stationed in the region. American, Kurdish, and Iraqi security personnel launched an investigation, and initial findings are that the missiles were of the Fateh-110 model (a ballistic missile with a short range of up to 300 km; the different models include the Zulfiqar, which was fired at the United Arab Emirates from Yemen, with a range of up to 700 km).

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) took responsibility for the missile fire and claimed that the target was a Mossad facility — “a strategic center that spreads the Zionist evil.” The announcement claimed that “In light of the recent crimes [the killing of the IRGC colonels in Syria] and Iran’s declaration that it would respond to them, the Zionist center was attacked with powerful and precise missiles of the Revolutionary Guard of Iran.” The IRGC warned the “Zionist regime” that “new crimes will be answered with a harsh and destructive response…. The security of the Iranian homeland constitutes a red line, and we will not allow anyone to violate it.”2

U.S. officials assessed that the missile fire was carried out by Iran in response to the death of the two IRGC colonels last week.3 Various Iranian spokespeople and editorials called to avenge the deaths and “teach Israel a lesson.”

Later, “informed intelligence sources” close to Iran and some of Iran’s Shiite proxies maintained that the attack was in retaliation for an Israeli attack on the Mahidasht UAV base (in Iran’s Kermanshah province) in which hundreds of UAVs were damaged. Iranian media quoted officials who said the targets were the new U.S. consulate building and two advanced instruction facilities operated by the Mossad along with “secret Israeli bases in Kurdistan.”

In July and September 2021, the U.S. base in Erbil was attacked by suicide drones. On February 13, 2022, an attempt to strike a base in Erbil housing American soldiers was thwarted.

Iraq’s Central Leaders Respond

Masrour Barzan tweet

The Iraqi government condemned the attack. Kurdistan’s antiterror unit4 and Iraq’s center for security information5 announced that the 12 ballistic missiles were fired from the east (Iran), outside of Iraq’s borders. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi tweeted6 that it was “an attack on the security of our people” and “our security forces will investigate and stand firm against any threats towards our people.”

The president of Iraq called the attack a “terror crime,” and the president of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, said it was a strike on the future of all of Iraq. The influential Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr underlined that “Erbil constitutes an inseparable part of Iraq and will not bow before anyone,” and called on the Kurds “to show patience until the establishment of a national unity government.”7

Pressure within Iran to Respond to the Killing of the IRGC Colonels in Syria

Following the killing of the two IRGC colonels in Syria last week, pressure for a response mounted in Iran, including in the newspaper Kayhan, which reflects the positions of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Iran assessed that an attack on the Kurdistan Region, where Kurdish opposition elements receive aid from Israel, and U.S. forces are stationed, would not cause an escalation. Iran emphasized—primarily for internal consumption—the Israeli nature of the target, which was chosen to soften any American reaction and Iraqi criticism. This time, too, Tehran chose a target it believed would not get it in hot water with Israel and the United States, estimating that the latter would avoid a response because of its ongoing interest in the nuclear talks.

Moreover, the attack occurred amid progress toward forming a new government in Iraq. Iran may be seeking to foil that process, in which rival Iraqi Shiite factions have reached preliminary understandings.

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