What happened: Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) fired 12 ballistic missiles at targets in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq, early Sunday morning. No injuries were reported.
- There are conflicting report that the target was the new US Consulate in Erbil, whilst Iran suggests it was a Mossad base, that had also been used as launch site for UAV attacks on Iran.
- The IRGC released a statement, “Following the recent crimes of the fake Zionist regime and the previous announcement that the crimes and evils of this infamous regime will not go unanswered; the ‘Strategic Center of Conspiracy and Evil of the Zionists’ was targeted last night by powerful and point-to-point missiles of the IRGC.”
- According to the governor of Erbil, Omed Khoshnaw, it was unclear whether the target was the US consulate, under construction, or the airport in the city.
- The Kurdistan 24 TV studio in the area was damaged in the attack as well.
- The US Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller said, “Elements of the Iranian regime claimed responsibility for this attack and they must be held accountable for this flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty and terrorist attacks on the property of innocent civilians.”
- While US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that there were “no indications” that the missile attack was directed at the US. “Iran must immediately cease its attacks, respect Iraqi sovereignty, and halt its interference in Iraq’s internal affairs.”
Context: The IRGC was not specific regarding the ‘recent crimes’ that they are blaming Israel, some analysts assess that it was in retaliation for the killing of two IRGC officers who died in an airstrike in Syria attributed to Israel last week. It could also relate to an alleged Israeli drone attack on an IRGC base in Mahidasht, Iran a month ago.
- In October last year, an Iranian UAV targeted the US base in al-Tanf, Syria. At the time it was considered a revenge for an alleged Israeli attack in Syria.
- Over the last year Iran’s efforts to attack Israeli targets has focused on commercial ships that are owned by Israelis, the decision yesterday to fire missiles is an escalation in its operations.
- However, in general, until now Iran has preferred to use proxies, this attack emanating from Iranian territory is new.
- Israel Hayom’s security analyst Yoav Limor, suggests “that escalation is a testament to the high degree of self-confidence felt by Tehran, which is a product of the West’s weakness in the nuclear talks and of the war in Ukraine, which has drawn global attention away from Iran.”
- After appearing close to reaching agreement on a return to the nuclear deal, it is currently unclear when negotiations will resume.
- Ehud Yaari on Channel 12 News presents an alternative explanation, that the attack struck a villa that is owned by the Kurdish leader, Masoud Barzani. Barzani also owns the Kurdistan 24 TV station, which was also hit. Yaari suggests this is part of an Iranians effort to threaten and warn Kurdish leaders against sabotaging efforts to form a pro-Iranian government in Iraq.
Following last week’s strike in the Damascus area, it appears Israel’s freedom of action in Syria has not been impaired and the security coordination between Israel and Russia remains in place.
Looking ahead: Israel remains on alert on the northern border. The general assessment is once the Iranians have publicly threated revenge it will be obliged to follow through.
- There remains the possibility that Iran will try to retaliate by firing missiles or infiltrate into Israel with a UAV.
- The IDF’s Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Hertzi Halevy is joining IDF Intelligence Director Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva in Washington this week to meet with senior US security officials as part of ongoing high level military cooperation.