The U.S. has a consulate inside Erbil, the capital of the semiautonomous Kurdish region in Iraq. The city’s international airport in February 2021. Credit: YUNUS KELES/ANADOLU AGENCY
Missiles From Iran Struck in Vicinity of U.S. Consulate in Northern Iraq, Officials Say
From The Wall Street Journal By Gordon Lubold and Michael R. Gordon March 12, 2022
The attack, which didn’t injure any U.S. personnel, comes as the U.S. is seeking to revive a nuclear deal with Tehran.
A missile strike early Sunday that landed in the vicinity of a new American consulate under construction in northern Iraq originated from Iran, according to U.S. officials.
The attack comes as the U.S. is edging closer to cementing a deal to revive the 2015 agreement with Tehran that constrains Iran’s nuclear program.
The compound wasn’t hit and no U.S. personnel were hurt, said U.S. officials. They added that they weren’t sure what was being targeted and that the attack was still under investigation.
The attack involved as many as a half-dozen missiles, and at least one landed more than two kilometers from the new compound, according to U.S. officials familiar with the preliminary reports. (A kilometer is 0.625 mile.)
While a series of attacks by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq have been carried out in recent years using drones and rockets, it is rare for such strikes to emanate from Iranian territory. Iran’s mission to the United Nations didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
U.S. officials said that the missile attack may have been in retaliation for an Israeli airstrike in Syria on Monday that killed two members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said after the Israeli strike that Iran would take steps to hold Israel accountable.
Israel has been carrying out airstrikes against Iranian-backed militias and Iranian personnel in Syria as it seeks to prevent Iran from transferring weapons to Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia group. The campaign includes placing mines on ships carrying oil and other goods that are bound for Syria.
The Iranians have previously sought to pressure the U.S. to constrain its Israeli ally.
In October, Iran directed five drones at the al-Tanf garrison in southern Syria, which is defended by a small contingent of U.S. forces and American-trained Syrian fighters. The Iranians said in a confidential message to the U.S. at that time that the attack was in response to an Israeli airstrike that killed two Iranian officers in Syria, U.S. officials said.
In January, the massive U.S. Embassy complex in Baghdad was struck by four rocket attacks that injured at least two individuals but no U.S. personnel were hurt. That attack originated from inside Baghdad and was believed to have been carried out by an Iranian-backed militia group.
A State Department spokesman didn’t provide details of the new rocket attack, its origins or say what the targets may have been.
“The incident is being investigated by the government of Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government,” according to a State Department statement. “We condemn this outrageous attack and display of violence.”
The U.S. has a consulate inside Erbil, the capital of the semiautonomous Kurdish region in Iraq, and is building a new one 8 miles from the center of the city.
The strikes come as Washington has been rushing to complete talks to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran. That agreement, which could also lead to the release of U.S. detainees, was close to being completed until Russia raised a fresh demand that its trade with Iran be exempted from Ukraine-related sanctions, Western officials say.
In January 2020, Iran fired ballistic missiles at the Al Asad base in western Iraq where U.S. troops were deployed. That was meant to avenge President Trump’s decision to order a drone strike that killed Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force.