An Iranian website has denied a claim that Iran's March 13 missile attack on Erbil was meant to derail a plan to pump Kurdish gas to Turkey and Europe.
The influential Nour News argued Thursday that Iraqi Kurdish officials had come up with the explanation to divert attention from Israeli intelligence operating in the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
"The disinformation campaign…stage-managed by Reuters, is not only devoid of truth but also aimed at covering up the scandal of anti-security cooperation of a section of the ruling group in Iraqi Kurdistan with the Zionist regime and the United States," Nour News wrote under the headline "Generous Betrayal Of Iraqi People's Interests To Absolve Mossad."
A Reuters report Monday cited anonymous Iraqi and Turkish officials that while Iran's attack carried several messages, a key trigger was a plan to pump Kurdish gas into Turkey and Europe to take advantage of uncertainties over Russia supplies after the Ukraine crisis.
Iran’s 12-missile attack, which hit a villa near the US consulate, was claimed by Tehran as hitting an Israeli intelligence center and variously seen as a response to an Israeli airstrike in Syria that killed two Iranian soldiers or to an Israeli attack February on drones at an airfield in Kermanshah province.
Many were surprised that the attack took place amid Iran's nuclear talks with world powers.
"There had been two recent meetings between Israeli and US energy officials and specialists at the villa to discuss shipping Kurdistan gas to Turkey via a new pipeline," an Iraqi security official told Reuters. The agency claimed two Turkish officials had confirmed talks involving US and Israeli officials to discuss Iraq supplying Turkey and Europe with natural gas.
The office of Iraqi Kurdish President Nechirvan Barzani denied that the Erbil villa, owned by a Kurdish businessman involved in the Kurdistan energy sector, had been used by US and Israeli officials to discuss a pipeline project.
In response to the Reuters report, Kurdish Prime Minister Masrour Barzani denied claims Tuesday that Kurdish officials had held talks with Israelis over gas and accused Iran of launching the attack on Erbil to influence the choice of Iraqi prime minister in fear that “the influence it has gained in recent years in this country will go away.” Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party is allied with the Shia bloc of cleric Moqtada Sadr, and the Arab Sunni Taqadum, led by house speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi.
But a Reuters report Tuesday noted Barzani had also told the World Government Forum in Dubai that developing oil and gas in Iraq's Kurdish region might not be in Iran's interest, presumably as Tehran also eyes European markets.
While Iran's foreign ministry and state media have not commented on Reuters’ claims over the Erbil attack, Nour News is affiliated to the Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Ali Shamkhani.