On January 15, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) claimed responsibility for an attack on “spy centers” northeast of Erbil, Iraq. An IRCG statement covered by Iran's semi-official news outlet, Mehr News Agency, stated that the “missile strike had been launched at a main espionage center of the Israeli regime’s Mossad spy agency in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.”
In response, Iraq recalled its ambassador from Tehran, formed a committee to investigate the incident, and threatened to submit a complaint to the United Nations Security Council.
Regional sources report on the dispute:
The Times of Israel provides insight into Iran’s rationale for the operation: “The Revolutionary Guards described the strike on the purported spy facility as a ‘response to the recent evil acts of the Zionist regime in martyring IRGC and resistance commanders,’ apparently referring to a strike in Syria that killed high-ranking IRGC Brig. Gen. Razi Mousavi and a pair of separate attacks in Lebanon that killed Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri and senior Hezbollah military commander Wissam al-Tawil,” each of whom “had close links with Iran.”
Al-Aribya clarifies that “Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) hit what they called an Israeli espionage center in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.” This “unusual dispute,” the source argued, “appeared likely to deepen worries about worsening instability across the Middle East since the war between Israel and Hamas started on Oct. 7.”
The Iraqi government condemned Iran’s “aggression” and the resulting civilian casualties, “calling it a violation of the country’s sovereignty and the security of its people, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” Al Jazeera shares the Iraqi government's consideration of “various actions, including filing a complaint at the United Nations Security Council.”
Iraq’s council of ministers also “formed a committee headed by Iraq's national security advisor to investigate the incident and collect relevant information to support the government's position on the international level,” as explained in Anadolu Agency’s coverage.
According to the Jerusalem Post, “Iraq has summoned the Iranian chargé d'affaires in Baghdad to protest against attacks on a number of areas in Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan on Monday, the state news agency reported on Tuesday… Iraq recalled on Tuesday its ambassador from Tehran to discuss the recent Iranian attack.”
Arab News highlighted the Arab League’s condemnation: “Ahmed Aboul Gheit, head of the Arab League, said the attacks were a flagrant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty,” and the Arab Parliament described the operation as “a blatant assault on Arab national security because the security and stability of Iraq is an integral part of Arab security.”
The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani asserted that the operation, as well as a recent Iranian strike in Syria, was “in line with the resolute defense of the country's sovereignty and security, countering terrorism, and part of the Islamic Republic's punishment against those who threaten the country's security,” according to the Daily Sabah. The statement maintained that the attack near Erbil was “a precise and targeted operation, identified the headquarters of the criminals and targeted them with accurate and precision-guided projectiles."