Iran responsible for Iraq missile attack says US as nuclear talks stumble

Up to 12 missiles aimed at US consulate in Erbil

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Iran launched up to 12 missiles targeting a US consulate complex under construction in Erbil on Sunday in an attack described by Iraq's president as a "terror" act.

Iraq President, Barham Salih, said the missile attack at Erbil in northern Iraq early on Sunday represented a "terror" act designed to sabotage the country's political process in forming a new government, the state news agency said.

"The attacks has a suspicious timing that aims to obstruct the country's constitutional process by forming a capable government," Mr Salih said on Twitter.

"We must stand firmly against attempts to plunge the country into chaos, and we must unite to support our security forces, and combat outlaw terrorists," he said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi said the attack was designed to "spread fear" in the city.

"Our security forces will investigate and stand firm against any threats towards our people," he said.

US and Iraqi officials told AFP that the strike was launched from neighbouring Iran.

Iranian state media claimed the attack was aimed at secret Israeli military installations within the Kurdish region, but Iranian military officials have yet to discuss the attack on record.

Iran later said the attack was in retaliation for an Israeli strike in Syria that killed two members of its Revolutionary Guard.

The German Embassy in Baghdad also spoke about against the attack.

"Germany strongly condemns the multiple missile attacks on Erbil last night. Perpetrators of this attack must be held accountable. Nothing justifies such a use of force and violence," it said on Twitter.

The attack is the largest missile volley fired from Iran into Iraq since January 2020, a week after the death of Qassem Suleimani, an Iranian commander who was killed in a US drone strike.

Erbil, capital of the Kurdish region, has been a repeated target of attacks.

An Iraqi official said that the projectiles used were Fateh-110 missiles, which have a range of 300 kilometres.

“There is zero doubt the US detected the launches on Erbil tonight,” said Michael Knights, an analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank.

The US maintains a number of satellites in high orbit capable of detecting missile launches, known as the Space Based Infrared System. They detected Iran’s January 8 2020 ballistic missile volley aimed at Iraqi-US bases in Al Anbar, western Iraq and Erbil, providing soldiers time to seek cover.

Massive shock waves caused concussive injuries to dozens of US troops who were sheltering in bunkers.

“If the launch site is Iran, which is practically certain for many geo/distance/weapon reasons, this means US intel has exact proof of Iranian involvement. Drones can be missed: SRBM launches are not,” Mr Knights wrote on Twitter. SRBMs are Short Range Ballistic Missiles, a category that includes the Fateh-110.

Video filmed from the scene showed missiles streaking to the ground at high speed and causing large fireballs on impact.

“After a period of relative calm, unfortunately, another rocket attack on Erbil. Apart from damage, the 12 missiles did not cause any casualties,” wrote Hans Akerboom, Consul General of the Netherlands in Erbil.

Shock waves hit the unoccupied offices of Kurdistan 24, a local television channel, and two bystanders were injured.

The attack came several days after Iran said it would retaliate for an Israeli strike near Damascus in Syria that killed two members of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

On Sunday, Iranian state TV released what is said was a statement from the IRGC taking responsibility for missile attacks against Israeli “strategic centres” in Iraq's northern Kurdish regional capital of Erbil, Iran's state media reported.

Iran and pro-Iranian groups in Iraq have frequently accused the Kurdish leadership of harbouring Israeli secret agents.

Erbil governor Omid Khoshnaw said such claims were “baseless allegations.” “There are no Israeli sites in the region,” he said.

The missile barrage also came as negotiations in Vienna over Tehran’s nuclear deal hit a “pause” amid Russian demands about sanctions imposed on Russians over its war on Ukraine.

On Sunday, Seyed Mohammad Marandi, a member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team who has taken part in the Vienna talks, tweeted a video of the attack, saying “this is just the beginning”.

Mr Marandi said earlier on Sunday that there was still no complete text of a new nuclear deal and called on the US and E3, which includes France, Germany and the UK, “to stop dragging their feet like children”.

Updated: March 14, 2022, 9:06 AM
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