Iran’s missile attack in Erbil: Middle Eastern responses

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Jess Diez
Managing Editor & Research Associate, Middle East Policy Council


Early Sunday’s missile attack in Erbil, Iraq’s Kurdish capital, displays ever-growing tensions in the US-Iranian relationship and the violent Iranian approach regarding anti-Zionism within the Arab world. Although the ballistic attack firing 12 missiles had no immediate responsibility claim, Iran shortly confirmed these actions as their own. The attacks fell close to the US Consulate under construction and damaged the headquarters of a Kurdish news channel, “Kurdistan24.” Although most sources deny any casualties, this claim is disputed, as various Lebanese and Turkish news sources state the presence of four casualties. Multiple Arab countries, such as Jordan, Bahrain, Yemen, and Egypt, and US officials have condemned the attack in an effort to hold Iran accountable. 

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) publicly justified its reasoning behind the attack under the pretext of driving out Zionist beliefs by targeting supposed Zionist strategic centers in Erbil. According to Tehran Times, IRGC warned about a retaliation following the death of 2 IRGC officers in Syria last week, and responded to these death, stating “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 for conspiracy and evil of the Zionists was targeted by powerful and pinpoint missiles of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps…“[It] gives assurances to the great Iranian nation that the security and tranquility of the Islamic homeland is the red of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran and it won’t allow threat or aggression against it by anyone.”

Iran’s foreign ministry states that they will not tolerate security threats from Iraq regarding a response to the attack and claims that Israel is the one to blame for Iranian-related security issues in Iraqi borders. The minister states that Israel has organized various ‘terrorist groups’ and rallies in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq. Saeed Khatibzadeh, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson told Al Jazeera thatit is in no way acceptable that one of our neighbors, which has deep ties with us, becomes a focal point for threats against the Islamic Republic of Iran…The Islamic Republic of Iran expects Iraq’s central government that it will end this situation once and for all, and won’t allow its borders to be taken advantage of, especially considering all the claims of improving ties to new levels that exist between the two countries.” 

The Kurdistan regional government (KRG), however, disagrees with Iran’s argument and denies the presence of Israeli bases within the city of Erbil. According to BBC Middle East, the Kurdish Region’s Council of Ministers states: This cowardly attack on Irbil… allegedly under the pretext of hitting an Israeli base near the US Consulate in Irbil, targeted civilian locations and its justification is only to hide the disgracefulness of such offense. We reiterate that the propaganda of the perpetrators of this attack is far from true.

Iran’s attack near the US Consulate, although the true site of attack is argued, dismantles the previous assumption that US buildings in Erbil are assured to be and remain safe. Writing for the Jerusalem Post, Seth Frantzman states thatthe attack shows the danger of Iranian missiles and also Iran’s ability to carry out precision strikes. It is likely a message to the US as the Iran deal talks appear to be failing. With the talks failing, Iran is saying it can go back to targeting US forces as it did in 2019, and that these attacks could get worse. The US Consulate building in Erbil is supposed to be an alternative to the US Embassy in Baghdad because of its size. It was designed to be safe and secure in the friendly Kurdish Region. However, the attacks show that Iran can easily target the US facility.”

Discussed further in the Jerusalem Post, Iraqi politician Muqtada al-Sadr responded with indignation following the notification of the missile attack, stating: “in the name of God, Erbil is under the fire of loss and betrayal, and under pain of starvation, as if the Kurds were not Iraqis. Rather, they are the lung of Iraq and its indivisible part…Erbil will not kneel except for moderation, independence and sovereignty.  Peace and love for you, Erbil, and you Kurds, and patience until the achievement of: #National_Majority_Government…The Iraqi lands, from its north to south and from its east to west, should not be used as an arena for political, security and military conflicts.”

Various Arab countries rose to condemn Iranian actions towards Erbil. Jordan, which has established multi-decade long ties with the Kurds and was one of the first countries to open a consulate in Erbil in 2010, is one of them. According to Jordan Times, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi has “condemned the missile attack on Erbil in the Kurdistan region of Iraq in a phone call with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein. Safadi also affirmed Jordan’s unwavering solidarity with Iraq in the face of all that threatens its security and stability, describing the attack as a violation of the sovereignty of Iraq and an attack on the security of its people, according to a Foreign Ministry statement. In a tweet, Safadi also highlighted that Iraq’s security is a ‘pillar’ of the region’s security.”

The Kingdom of Bahrain has also risen to the public condemning and denouncing Iran’s missile attack on Erbil. According to Bahrain News Agency, the attack was “a cowardly terrorist act that represents a flagrant violation of international law and clearly targets the security, safety and stability of the brotherly Republic of Iraq. In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirmed the Kingdom of Bahrain’s full support for the Republic of Iraq in all the measures it takes to maintain its security and territorial integrity. It also stressed its firm stance in rejecting violence and terrorism in all their forms, calling on the international community to condemn such acts that aim to destabilise the region and its people.” 

Similarly, the Arab League’s General, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, condemned the attack. According to Egypt Independent, “an official source in the General Secretariat of the Arab League stressed the League’s full support for the Iraqi efforts in confronting any actions against Iraq’s stability and security. The Arab League called for the speedy disclosure of the truth behind who launched the missiles and aims to destabilize civil peace at a precise moment when Iraq is seeking to form its new government.” 

However, not all comply with the general consensus of condemning Iran. According to Al Mayadeen, Ahmed Khreis, the media office official in the of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Gaza, believes that bombing Israel centers in Erbil will stop Zionists from supposedly commiting more attacks, noting that “Iran assures the world that it is a strong match and does not forgive the attacks of the Zionists or their spy networks. Iran today is not like yesterday, as it is a central force in the region, and its steadfastness in the file of the nuclear agreement proves to everyone that the time of submission and kneeling is over.”

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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