Iraq makes diplomatic protests over Iran missile strikes on Erbil

Iraq makes diplomatic protests over Iran missile strikes on Erbil
Iraqi leaders called off meetings with the Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in protest against Tehran's deadly missile strikes on Erbil.
3 min read
17 January, 2024
Four people were killed in Monday's strikes on Erbil, Kurdish authorities said [Safin Hamid/AFP via Getty]

Iraq is making its frustration with Iran known over Tehran's missile strikes earlier this week on Erbil that killed four people.

On Wednesday, the prime ministers of Iraq and its Kurdistan Region called off meetings with the Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Davos, Switzerland, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.

Iraqi PM Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and Kurdistan Region premier Masrour Barzani's meetings with Amir-Abdollahian were reportedly cancelled in response to the strikes on the unofficial capital of Iraqi Kurdistan that local authorities say killed four people and injured six others.

A day earlier, Iraq summoned the Iranian envoy to Baghdad and recalled its ambassador to Tehran over the strikes.

Baghdad is also taking its outrage to the world stage, saying that it will lodge a complaint over the strikes with the UN Security Council.

Iran claimed it hit a "Zionist regime's spy headquarters in northern Iraq" with the strike.

The strike came "in response to the recent vicious actions of the Zionist regime which martyred the commanders of the Revolutionary Guards and the resistance front," a statement from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) carried by Iran's official IRNA news agency said. Iranian general Razi Mousavi died in a strike in Syria last month.

Both Erbil and Baghdad have denied Tehran's claim that an Israel-liked spy centre was struck.

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The strikes killed prominent Kurdish businessman Peshraw Dizayee and his infant son, among others.

After a visit Tuesday to the scene of the strike, Iraq's National Security Adviser Qassem al-Araji dismissed Iran's claim it had hit an Israeli intelligence base, saying it struck a businessman's family home.

"Concerning the alleged presence of a headquarters of Israel's Mossad, we visited the house, we inspected every corner of it and everything indicated that it was the family home of an Iraqi businessman," Araji told Kurdish television station Kurdistan 24.

Iran has nevertheless persisted with its claims, and Amir-Abdollahian said on Wednesday that Tehran shared intelligence with Iraq about what it said were activities of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Iraq's leaders have long tried to maintain balance in its relationships with arch rivals Iran and the US.

But Iran has strong political influence in Iraq and the US maintains a military presence in the country, and tensions between Tehran and Washington often flare up within Iraq.

Since Israel launched its war on Gaza on 7 October, Iran-backed militias have struck military bases that host US troops, in what they say is punishment of the US for its steadfast support of Israel.

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The US has retaliated to the attacks with airstrikes, prompting Iraqi anger over what it says is a breach of its sovereignty.

Though the expressions of protest from Baghdad have come thick and fast, they are unlikely the start any long-term change to Iraq-Iran relations.

"Further escalation is unlikely, and so are major changes to the relationship between Iraq and Iran, mainly due to the complex ties between the two countries and the fact that many of Iraq's political leaders justified the attack or stayed silent," Hayder al-Shakeri, a research fellow for the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House told The New Arab.