By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iran on Sunday claimed responsibility for a barrage of missiles that struck near a sprawling U.S. consulate compound in northern Iraq, saying it was retaliation for a Israeli strike in Syria that killed two members of its Revolutionary Guards earlier this week.
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry on Sunday summoned Iran’s ambassador to protest the attack, calling it a gross violation of the country’s sovereignty.
No injuries were reported in Sunday’s attack on the city of Erbil, which marked a significant escalation between the United States and Iran. Hostility between longtime enemies has often played out in Iraq, whose government is allied with both countries.
The attack was harshly condemned by the Iraqi government, which called it a “violation of international law and standards” and demanded an explanation from Iran’s leadership. Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad al-Sahhaf told The Associated Press that the ministry summoned Iranian Ambassador Iraj Masjedi to present the diplomatic protest.
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The United States strongly condemned the strike and said it was a wanton attack on a civilian residence.
“We will support the Iraqi government in holding Iran accountable, and we will support our partners across the Middle East in dealing with similar threats from Iran,” the White House national security adviser said. Jake Sullivan, in a statement. “The United States of America supports the full sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Iraq.”
No US facilities were damaged or personnel injured, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington. The United States had no indication that the attack was directed against the United States, he said.
Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards said on their website that they attacked what they described as an Israeli spy center in Erbil. He did not give details, but in a statement he said Israel had gone on the offensive, citing the recent strike that killed two members of the Revolutionary Guards. The semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted an unnamed source as saying Iran fired 10 Fateh missiles, including several Fateh-110 missiles, which have a range of around 300 kilometers (186 miles).
The source claimed that the attack resulted in several casualties. There was no immediate comment from Israel on the Iranian missile allegations or barrage.
An Iraqi official in Baghdad first said several missiles hit the US consulate in Erbil, which is new and unoccupied, adding that it had been the intended target of the attack. Later, Lawk Ghafari, the head of the Kurdistan Foreign Media Office, said none of the missiles hit the US facility but residential areas around the compound were hit.
Following a Cabinet meeting, the Iraqi government in Baghdad reiterated its refusal to allow Iraq to be used to settle scores between other countries and said it had demanded explanations from the Iranian leadership.
The Kurdistan24 satellite broadcaster, located near the US consulate, broadcast from their studio shortly after the attack, showing shards of glass and debris on their studio floor.
The attack came days after Iran said it would retaliate for an Israeli strike near Damascus, Syria, that killed two members of its Revolutionary Guards. On Sunday, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted Iraqi media acknowledging the attacks in Erbil, without saying where they came from.
The missile barrage coincided with regional tensions. Negotiations in Vienna over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal marked a “pause” on Russian demands for sanctions targeting Moscow for its war on Ukraine. Meanwhile, Iran has suspended secret Baghdad-brokered talks aimed at defusing years-long tensions with regional rival Saudi Arabia, after Saudi Arabia carried out its largest known mass execution of its modern history with over three dozen Shiites killed.
Iraqi security officials said there were no casualties in the Erbil attack, which they said happened after midnight and caused property damage in the area. They spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with regulations.
One of the Iraqi officials said the ballistic missiles were fired from Iran, without giving further details. He said the Iranian-made Fateh-110 missiles were likely fired in retaliation for the two Revolutionary Guards killed in Syria.
US forces stationed at the Erbil airport compound have come under rocket and drone fire in the past, with US officials blaming Iran-backed groups.
The top US commander for the Middle East has repeatedly warned of growing threats of attacks by Iran and Iran-backed militias against troops and allies in Iraq and Syria.
In an interview with The Associated Press in December, Marine General Frank McKenzie said that while US forces in Iraq have shifted to a non-combat role, Iran and its proxies still want all US troops out of the country. . As a result, he said, it could trigger more attacks.
The Biden administration decided last July to end the US combat mission in Iraq by December 31, and US forces have been gradually shifting to an advisory role over the past year. The troops will still provide air support and other military aid for Iraq’s fight against Islamic State.
The US presence in Iraq has long been a flashpoint for Tehran, but tensions rose after a January 2020 US drone strike near Baghdad airport killed a top Iranian general. In retaliation, Iran launched a barrage of missiles at al-Asad airbase, where US troops were stationed. More than 100 servicemen suffered traumatic brain injuries in the explosions.
More recently, Iranian proxies are believed to be responsible for an assassination attempt late last year against Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
And officials have said they believe Iran was behind the October drone attack on the southern Syrian military outpost where US troops are based. No US personnel were killed or injured in the attack.
Al-Kadhimi tweeted: “The aggression that targeted the dear city of Erbil and sowed fear among its inhabitants is an attack on the security of our people.”
Masrour Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdish-controlled semi-autonomous region, condemned the attack. In a Facebook post, he said Irbil “will not bow to the cowards who carried out the terrorist attack.”
Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor, Calvin Woodward and Matthew Lee in Washington, Zeina Karam in Beirut, Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show that US officials did not say the US Consulate was damaged.
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