By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have claimed responsibility for a rocket attack that targeted the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.
A dozen ballistic missiles struck Irbil early on March 13, targeting the U.S. consulate’s new building and the neighboring residential area but caused only material damage and one civilian was injured, the Kurdish Interior Ministry said.
The IRGC released a statement taking responsibility for the missile attack against Israeli “strategic centers” in Irbil, Iran’s state media reported.
“Any repetition of attacks by Israel will be met with a harsh, decisive and destructive response,” the IRGC said in the statement.
A U.S. official blamed Iran for the attack earlier on March 13 but did not give further details.
A Kurdish spokesperson for the regional authorities said that the attack only targeted civilian residential areas, not a foreign base and called on the international community to carry out an investigation.
Iraq’s Ministerial Council for National Security said it has requested via diplomatic channels a “frank and clear” explanation from Iran.
Iraq “awaits a stance from the Iranian political leadership that rejects aggression,” the council said after a meeting to discuss the attack.
Iraq’si Foreign Ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad to deliver a protest note over the attack.
The United States said the missile strike originated from Iran.
State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned it as “an outrageous violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.”
He said that “no U.S. facilities were damaged, or personnel injured,” and there were “no indications the attack was directed at the United States.”
U.S. national-security adviser Jake Sullivan also said that Washington was working to help Iraq get missile defense capabilities to defend itself.
U.S. forces stationed at Irbil’s international airport complex have in the past come under fire from rocket and drone attacks that U.S. officials blame on Iran-aligned militia groups, but no such attacks have occurred for several months.
The attack came several days after an Israeli strike near Damascus, Syria, killed two members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Tehran strongly condemned the attack and vowed to retaliate.
Satellite broadcast channel Kurdistan24, which is located near the U.S. consulate, went on air from their studio shortly after the attack, showing shattered glass and debris on their studio floor.
The attack also came as negotiations in Vienna to revive Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal hit a “pause” after Russia demanded relief from sanctions targeting Moscow over its war on Ukraine.
The top U.S. commander for the Middle East has repeatedly warned about the increasing threats of attacks from Iran and Iranian-backed militias on troops and allies in Iraq and Syria.
The Biden administration decided last July to end the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by Dec. 31, and U.S. forces gradually moved to an advisory role last year. The troops will still provide air support and other military aid for Iraq’s fight against the Islamic State extremist group.
The U.S. presence in Iraq has long been a flash point for Tehran, but tensions spiked after a January 2020 U.S. drone strike near the Baghdad airport killed a top Iranian general.
In retaliation, Iran launched a barrage of missiles at Al-Asad airbase, where U.S. troops were stationed. More than 100 service members suffered traumatic brain injuries in the blasts.