Iraq summons Iranian ambassador to protest against Erbil missile attack

Ballistic missiles fired by Iran came down near US consulate complex in Kurdish region capital

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Iraq summoned the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad late on Sunday to protest against his country’s missile attack against the northern city of Erbil.

In the early hours of Sunday, Iran fired 12 ballistic missiles that came down in areas near the US consulate complex in the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said the attack was carried out against Israeli “strategic centres” in Erbil. Iranian media outlets suggested it was revenge for recent Israeli air strikes that killed Iranian military personnel in Syria.

“Any repetition of attacks by Israel will be met with a harsh, decisive and destructive response,” the IRGC said in a statement.

The Iraqi Kurdish regional government denied the presence of any Israeli security centres, saying the attack was aimed at only civilian residential areas.

One civilian was hurt, the Kurdish officials said.

US officials said no Americans were hurt or US facilities hit.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi on Monday visited Erbil and held talks with senior Kurdish officials.

During his trip to the semi-autonomous northern region he held talks with Masrour Barzani, the Prime Minister of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

“We’re in absolute agreement that the repeated attacks on Iraq's sovereignty must stop,” Mr Barzani said after the meeting.

The Iraqi official also held talks with Massoud Barzani, the former president of the KRG. The two agreed to form an investigative team that will look into the incident.

“We deliberated on a number of matters facing Iraq and Kurdistan and especially focused on the recent attack against Erbil where the Prime Minister and I both agreed to form a special investigative team to look into the truths of the event,” Mr Barzani said.

Iraq protested that the Iranian missile attack caused “material damages on civilians houses and buildings in addition to spreading fear among the residents of these areas”.

The Foreign Ministry called the attack a “flagrant violation of the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq and the principles of good neighbourliness”. It warned that the incident would “further complicate” the situation in the region, without elaborating.

Multiple missiles hit Iraq's Kurdish capital Erbil

Multiple missiles hit Iraq's Kurdish capital Erbil

The attack has drawn wide condemnation from regional and international leaders.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the US condemned it in “the strongest terms” and said Washington would try to boost Iraq's defences.

“We will support the government of Iraq in holding Iran accountable, and we will support our partners throughout the Middle East in confronting similar threats from Iran,” Mr Sullivan said.

“This attack targeted a civilian residence in Erbil, the Kurdistan region’s capital city, without any justification.”

The UAE expressed “strong condemnation and denunciation of the attacks that are aimed to destabilise Iraq in violation of the principles of international law.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation "affirmed the UAE's solidarity with Iraq in all the measures it takes to ensure its security, stability and sovereignty". The statement said the UAE would be “standing with Iraq in confronting terrorism”.

The German Foreign Office condemned the attack as “unacceptable”.

“The perpetrators of this attack must be held accountable,” it said in a statement.

During a phone call to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Mr Al Kadhimi said his country should not become “a stage for settling external scores”.

After an emergency meeting, the Iraqi government said it had requested an explanation for the strike from the Iranian leadership.

On Monday, Iran again attempted to justify the attack with the accusation that it had targeted a facility belonging to a foreign power that was conducting "sabotage” attacks in Iran. Iran has repeatedly accused Israeli secret agents of conducting sabotage attacks on Iranian nuclear and industrial facilities.

“It is not at all acceptable that one of our neighbours that has deep relations with us ... becomes a centre for creating threats against the Islamic republic,” said foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh.

“Iran will not tolerate that a centre near its borders becomes the centre for sabotage, conspiracy and sending terrorist groups to Iran,” he said at his weekly press conference in Tehran.

The attack on Sunday is the biggest since January 2020, when Iran retaliated for the killing of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani in a US drone attack in Baghdad by firing dozens of missiles directly at US facilities in Iraq.

US forces stationed at the Erbil International Airport complex had previously come under fire from rocket and drone attacks that Washington blames on Iran-aligned militia groups, but no such attacks have occurred for several months.

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

Updated: March 14, 2022, 4:16 PM