The Platform


Iran has claimed responsibility for a ballistic missile attack in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil on Sunday night. The missiles struck near a U.S. consulate complex. The missiles also destroyed a villa belonging to a Kurdish billionaire. Iranian media claims that the house hosted Israeli intelligence operatives. Iranian media also claims to have published the names of the Israelis killed or injured in the attack, but for obvious reasons, this can’t be verified.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Erbil was the first city to be targeted by a foreign country. In the past, the city was hit by Katyusha rockets. Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) have usually been held responsible. The attacks commenced after the United States killed Iran’s Qassem Soleimani in 2020. Soleimani headed the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps which is Iran’s equivalent to the CIA. The attacks have become a means to exert pressure on Erbil to vote out the remaining American forces in Iraq. Erbil has become Washington’s last military base in Iraq since the Iraqi parliament voted American forces out in 2020.

However, the recent attack involved ballistic missiles from the Iranian region of Tebriz. The city lies just 300 kilometres northeast of Erbil. The missiles were Iranian-made Fateh 110. The missiles hit the U.S. consulate complex in Erbil and surrounding infrastructure. Iran-funded Al-Mayadeen wrote, “No consulate or government building was targeted but Israeli spy nets.” According to Al-Mayadeen, the Iranian security directorate of Azerbaijan carried out the operation.

Erbil is home to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The KDP has come to dominate the regional government in Iraqi Kurdistan. In recent years, it has grown closer to the United States and Turkey. The Peshmerga, the Kurdish branch of the Iraqi Armed Forces, is funded and trained by the Pentagon as the region is in financial ruin and cannot pay its employees on time. Monthly salaries are paid every fifty or sixty days. Tehran views the Peshmerga as Washington’s proxy army and a direct threat to Tehran.

After the recent Iraqi parliamentary elections, negotiations have come to a halt. In the 2021 elections, Iranian-backed parties lost most of their parliamentary seats. PMF’s largest party, the Badr Organization, achieved only 17 seats, down from 48 in just three years. Washington-backed parties gained a significant victory, enough to form a government excluding Iranian-backed parties—a move with the potential to undo Iran’s past achievements in Iraq over the last two decades. Iraqi militias targeted the home of the Iraqi prime minister in Baghdad’s green zone, the most secured area in Baghdad. It revealed how the Iraqi militias were outside the scopes of the Iraqi state.

The ground is set for a flashpoint as all parties have come to a standstill. Unsurprisingly, those who want war will be inspired by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war in Ukraine has dragged on further than was expected. Its spillover effects increase as it continues into its third week. As Russian advances slow and the Kremlin begins to see domestic unrest at home, it is seeking new allies to divert Western attention away from Ukraine.

Attacking U.S. bases in Iraq could become another headache for Washington as talks with Tehran drag on, which Russia has threatened to undo. Before the Kremlin’s march on Ukraine, Ebrahim Raisi, the president of Iran, visited Moscow. Raisi stressed strengthening ties with Moscow to confront the U.S. After severe Western sanctions on Russia, the Iranian talks were suspended indefinitely this week. Iran abstained from a UN vote to condemn Russia, joining China, Syria, and a few other countries.

Farhang Faraydoon Namdar is a researcher and journalist covering the Middle East and International Affairs. His work has been published in the Jerusalem Post, The National Interest, and various Kurdish magazines. He was the former Editor in Chief of the Birst Newspaper. He has translated books and articles including Fukuyama’s 'State Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century' into Kurdish. Currently, he is a researcher at the Kurdistan Conflict and Crisis Research Center (KCCRC) focusing on International Relations.