• IRGC warns Israel after missile strike on Mossad bases in Erbil

    Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has issued a stern warning to Israel following a retaliatory missile strike on the “strategic center of Zionist conspiracy and evil” in the northern Iraqi Kurdistan city of Erbil.

    In a statement issued Sunday, the IRGC indicated that the operation was in response to an Israeli airstrike on the Syrian capital of Damascus last Monday, in which two IRGC officers were killed.
    “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 said. (...)

    #IsraelIran #Irak #Kurdistan

    • Covert drone war between Israel and Iran goes public with missile launch on Iraq
      Amos Harel | Mar. 13, 2022 | 10:48 PM - Haaretz.com

      Tehran has adopted a policy of responding to any attack against it attributed to Israel, such as the one last week in Syria. Meanwhile, Israel fears new demands would see Iran getting more out of Vienna nuclear talks

      Iran’s claim of responsibility for this weekend’s missile launches at Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, revealed a bit about the war of drones, missiles and cyber that the Islamic Republic and Israel have been waging for a long time.

      Some of the blows the enemies exchange are landed under the radar; others are publicized only after some time. But in practice, Israel and Iran have been clashing directly for five years now, and there has been a clear trend of escalation. One could list key incidents such as the downing of an Iranian drone that had penetrated Israeli airspace in February 2018 and Iran’s attempted cyberattack on Israel’s water system in April 2020.

      In general, it’s clear the Iranians have adopted a policy of responding to any significant Israeli attack, and certainly to any attack that causes them casualties. And last week, two officers in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were reportedly killed in an alleged Israeli air strike in Syria, not far from the Damascus airport.

      But the time that elapsed between these two incidents may actually be too short. It’s possible the Iranians were responding to earlier attacks against them.

      The missiles were fired at Irbil overnight on Saturday. At first, there was speculation that the target was American, but later, media outlets close to Iran said the target had been Israeli.

      At noon on Sunday, the Revolutionary Guards announced that they had carried out the attack and described the target as Israeli “strategic centers.” They also warned Israel that next time, the response will be a “harsh, decisive and destructive response.”

      The Lebanese television station Al Mayadeen, which is close to both Hezbollah and Iran, added further details. It said the attack was an Iranian retaliation for an incident in mid-February, when Israeli drones launched from Iraqi Kurdistan hit an Iranian base and caused substantial damage. It also said the overnight strike on Irbil killed and wounded many Israeli soldiers, but that claim doesn’t seem credible.

      This isn’t the first time the Iranians have claimed there is a secret Israeli base in Irbil. In April 2021, the Iranian media reported that Iran had launched drones and missiles at that same location, near the Irbil airport, and that the attack had wounded Mossad agents.

      Foreign media outlets have for years reported that secret Israeli activity was taking place in both Kurdistan and Azerbaijan, both of which border Iran. In principle, this sounds reasonable, since an Israeli presence in those places would greatly reduce the range for Israeli attacks on Iranian targets.

      In this regard, the American disclaimer was interesting. In response to the initial reports Sunday morning, which mentioned the United States as a possible target, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman quickly announced that the administration didn’t believe the American consulate in Irbil had been the target. Washington did something similar in the past, when it leaked that attacks by pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias in Syria on the American base in Al-Tanf were retaliation for Israeli attacks.

      The Kurdish government’s response was more collegial. In a statement on Sunday, it said the attack constituted Iranian aggression against a strictly civilian target.

      Iran nuke connection

      This small-scale war is being conducted against the background of two much bigger international developments – the war in Ukraine and the effect of the deteriorating Russian-American relationship on the talks in Vienna between Iran and five other countries about a new nuclear deal. And these developments aren’t unrelated.

      According to reports from Vienna, the parties were slated to finalize the new agreement soon. But then a last-minute problem cropped up: Moscow demanded guarantees that if Tehran signed the nuclear deal, Russian trade with Iran would be able to continue despite the sanctions the international community imposed on Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine.

      Over the weekend, Britain, France and Germany warned Moscow that its new demands could cause the nuclear deal, which they said was on the verge of being signed, to collapse. But the Israeli defense establishment says Iran may also raise new hurdles, in the hope of extracting additional concessions from the other parties before signing.

      Israel is troubled that the Biden administration is completely focused on the fallout of the war in Ukraine and doesn’t appear to be interested in setting tougher conditions for Iran in the nuclear talks. In particular, Jerusalem would have liked to see Washington insist that any deal be contingent on completion of the International Atomic Energy’s investigation into four sites where Iran is suspected of engaging in prohibited nuclear activity.

      Israel is also worried about the arrangements for removing Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium. Under the original agreement signed in 2015, from which America unilaterally withdrew in 2018 with the urging of then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the enriched uranium was sent to Russia.

      Defense sources said that in recent months, Iran has continued enriching uranium to a high level, with the result that it is now apparently just weeks away from acquiring enough enriched uranium for a single nuclear bomb. But even after reaching that target – which the Iranians have so far been careful not to do – the bomb would still need to be adapted to fit on the warhead of a ballistic missile. That would take another year or two, say intelligence estimates.

    • US does not believe consulate in Iraq was target of Iranian missile strike
      By Mychael Schnell - 03/13/22

      Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Sunday said the U.S. does not believe the American consulate in Iraq was the target of an Iranian missile strike that morning, instead calling it an attack on Iraq’s sovereignty.

      “We do not believe the consulate was the target of this attack... this was an attack on Iraq’s sovereignty,” Sherman said during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

      A dozen ballistic missile strikes hit Erbil, the northern Kurdish regional capital of Iraq, early on Sunday, which the Iranian Revolutionary Guards took responsibility for, according to Reuters.

      The strike reportedly left material damage and injured one civilian, Reuters reported, citing the Kurdish interior ministry.

      Iran’s Revolutionary Guards wrote in a statement that the offensive was against Israeli “strategic centres” in Erbil, Reuters reported, citing Iran’s state media.

      “Any repetition of attacks by Israel will be met with a harsh, decisive and destructive response,” the Iranian Revolutionary Guards added.(...)

    • Erbil missile strike a response to Israeli sabotage of Iran drone factory, say sources | Middle East Eye

      By Suadad al-Salhy
      Published date: 14 March 2022 16:41 UTC | Last update: 16 hours 31 mins ago

      The ballistic missile attack that targeted Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, is a response to a previous Israeli attack that targeted an Iranian drone factory in the city of Tabriz, Iranian and Iraqi officials told Middle East Eye.

      Suggestions it was linked to negotiations over the formation of Iraq’s next government were wide of the mark, they said.

      Around 1am on Sunday morning, a dozen ballistic missiles were launched from Iranian territory towards Iraq. Most of them hit a farm 30km north of Erbil, Kurdish officials said.

      Iran’s Revolutionary Guard claimed responsibility for the attack. It alleged the missiles targeted Mossad sites in Erbil, saying Iran’s security and peace is a “red line” that no one is allowed to threaten.