Analysis: Is There an Israeli Hand in Iran's Erbil Attacks?

Published March 14th, 2022 - 09:49 GMT
A damaged mansion in Erbil attacks
A damaged mansion is shown following an overnight Iranian missile attack in Erbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, on March 13, 2022. (Safin Hamed/AFP)

What should one make of the Erbil attack by Iran's Revolutionary Guards who later claimed full responsibility? 

The attacks were not deadly in as much as intensive, offensive and destructive with at least 12 ballistic missiles launched at the newly-built US Consulate in Erbil, US bases and training centers dubbed to be run by the Israeli Mossad. 

It this claim is true then, it is a travesty and shows how much Iraq deteriorated is following a slippery-slope into an American-western tarnished with Israeli cooperation. This is a far cry from the days of the pre-American invasion of 2003 when Iraq was seen as the bastion of Arab nationalism that stood up to Washington and Israel in spite of the gruelling UN sanctions the country was under. 

The attacks coming from the east, purportedly from outside Iraq, are hiking the security notch upwards. It speak of much spiralling tensions between Iran and Washington that literally developed in a matter of days. The incoming ballistic missiles on Erbil is baffling when it is considered the multi-country delegations to the nuclear talks in Vienna were moving towards signature signing  were it not for the bloody Ukraine war and its consequences. 

That conflict is sending the world into a tailspin were everyone is now watching their backs and suddenly sending the talks into a limbo mode after so much optimism beginning in Tehran, Washington, Moscow, London, Paris, Beijing and Berlin. The Ukraine disaster didn't real suggest the talks were deadlocked but merely put on hold for the international system to start ticking normally.

The Russian delegation with their counterparts, the Chinese were working hard to get Iran and the USA together and revive the 2015 nuclear deal to put a stump on nuclear weapons and increase world security.

Within this context the Iranian military actions on Erbil - no doubt positively viewed by some countries like Israel which don't want the nuclear deal revived - are now being viewed as an escalation and very dangerous, bringing the region to another potentially inflammatory war  between Tehran and Tel Aviv aside from the deadly and destructive conflict being experienced in Russia and Ukraine, two nations that were previously one.

There is really no logical explanation for Iran's actions despite the fact that many say it was a response to the killing of two Revolutionary Guards' operatives in Syria who were killed by an Israeli military strike. So is Tel Aviv the culprit? Israel has always regarded Syria as a "potshot" target practice for years and non of this happened. So why act now? What is so different about the last killings? 

Usually Iran's response is measured, ignoring the missiles and direct hits, the bombs and projectiles, like the doings of the Baath government in Damascus which is to do nothing but watch till the dust settles down! When Tehran acts, it is usually with much thought, although some would cynically say, it allows its proxies in Iraq and Syria to act.

However, at times, it acts directly like in 2019 when the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qassem Soleimani was killed by the Americans in Baghdad. It then initiated a series of strikes and called it a day. For Tehran that was an appropriate response.

So maybe, and no one can tell, judging from the murky relations in this part of the world, that would be the end of it. So far, Iraq has managed not to become a 'theater of war' between Israel and Iran with both seeking to settle their scores differently, and this is regardless of the fact, that on more than one occasion, Tel Aviv sought to strike areas in Iraq but this has been few and far in between. 

The Baghdad government has condemned the attacks on Erbil in Kurdistan, calling the strikes wholly unacceptable. But tensions between the two countries has been chopping and changing,  at times low, sometimes high.   And then there is the regional angle to consider. Iran, and maybe for the time being, has cancelled its fifth meeting with Saudi Arabia that was to be held in Baghdad aimed at re-establishing long-frozen diplomatic relations with the two countries. Iran is now unhappy about the recent Saudi executions of 81 people many of whom are Shiites. 

So this is the regional stage we are in at now. Will there be escalations after the Erbil attacks? Will Israel likely to hold further attacks? There is no doubt planning is underway, maybe not for the Iraqi heartland, but in a such safer place like Syria. In politics however, nobody can tell. Can Iraq be sucked into a wider theater of war? Everyone is watching.

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