Senior US officials Sunday appeared to suggest that Iran’s missile attack on Erbil would not impact the chances of concluding a nuclear agreement with Tehran.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday no US citizens were harmed, and no US facilities were hit in the Iranian ballistic missile attack on Erbil.
Sullivan condemned the attack by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on Sunday, saying Washington would do whatever it takes to defend its people, interests and allies.
A statement by the State Department appeared to dispel the notion that Iran's attack had anything to do with the US.
"The United States strongly condemns the missile strikes on Erbil, Iraq last night that emanated from Iran. The strikes were an outrageous violation of Iraq’s sovereignty. No U.S. facilities were damaged or personnel injured, and we have no indications the attack was directed at the United States," the State Department said.
Iran’s missile attack came as diplomats have stopped nuclear talks in Vienna after 11 months of negotiations even though they say an agreement was very close to be finalized. The pause came after Russia on March 5 demanded an exemption from Ukraine sanctions in its economic and other relations with Iran. Tehran has not objected to Russia’s sudden move, which is bound to delay an agreement and lifting of Iran’s economic sanctions, vital for the government.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told Fox News on Sunday that “this was a very concerning attack” but "we do not believe the US consulate was actually the target of this missile attack."
She tacitly signaled that the attacks won’t have any effect on US readiness to conclude a nuclear deal with Iran, saying, Washington is concerned about the attacks but “imagine these Iranians with a nuclear weapon. We need to get that off the table so we can address their malign behavior in the Middle East… But first we’ve got to get this deal”.
“President Biden believes very strongly, as does secretary Blinken, as do I, that we need to get sure that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon, and then we also need to deal with their malign behaver in the region, but first we’ve got to make sure that they cannot a nuclear weapon”.
The Biden administration has dismissed Moscow’s demand for exemptions from Ukraine sanctions, but some media outlets and politicians in Iran have been arguing that Russia has taken Iran’s nuclear deal hostage. They have accused their government of being subservient to Moscow to the extent of relinquishing the vital national interest in achieving an agreement with the West.
Critics of the Biden policy argue that once a nuclear deal is reached and Iran receives tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, it would have little incentive to negotiate over other issues, including its ballistic missile program and its aggressive regional policies.
The US ambassador to Iraq, Matthew Tueller, said the US condemns the “criminal attack on civilian targets in Irbil”, noting that "Iranian regime elements have claimed responsibility for this attack and must be held accountable for this flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty”.
The remark about “Iran regime elements” also minimizes the gravity of Iran’s act.
The IRGC that has accepted responsibility of the missile attack is not an element in a loose structure. It is Iran’s main military force, and its officers also occupy the top positions in the regular army. The commander in chief of both the IRGC and the army is Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and any decision to launch a missile strike cannot be taken without his approval.
Some US lawmakers and former officials reacted differently to Iran’s action. Several people urged Biden to stop the nuclear talks, and not sign an agreement partly engineered by Russia.