The aftermath of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards ballistic missiles attack in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan (January 16, 20240)

Iran’s Missile Strikes Show Muscle While Avoiding Real War

Tuesday, 01/16/2024

In a show of force amid heightened regional tensions, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards unleashed a barrage of ballistic missiles against “enemies” in Iraq and Syria.

Iranian missiles hit several locations in Syria’s northwest and Iraqi Kurdistan Monday night, in what IRGC claimed to be retaliatory attacks against ISIS and Israeli spies. The attack on targets in Idlib, Syria, Tehran claimed its longest range missile strike ever on targets more than 1,200 kilometers away from its western borders.

Explosions were heard near the US consulate in Erbil with no damage to American interests, according to US officials, but killing at least four civilians and injuring six more, according to Kurdish officials.

The IRGC issued three statements to take responsibility for, and explain, the attacks –which it said was “in response to” the recent bombing in Iran and the killing of “resistance” commanders, presumably, by Israelis in Syria and Lebanon.

In the past few weeks, Iran’s top man in Syria, Sayyed Razi, and several high-ranking figures from Hamas, Hezbollah and other Iran-sponsored groups have been killed in similar fashion –by precision strikes, widely believed to have been carried out by Israel.

Israeli officials had no immediate reaction to IRGC’s Monday attacks. The US government, however, issued a brief statement, “strongly” condemning the missile strike at Erbil. 

“We oppose Iran’s reckless missile strikes and support the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s efforts to meet the aspirations of the Iraqi people,” US state department spokesperson Mathew Miller posted on X.

Kurdish prime minister Mansour Barzani was also quick to slam Iran for the “cowardly” attacks and called it a “flagrant violation of Iraq’s and the Kurdistan Region’s sovereignty.”

“I also call on our partners in the international community,” he posted on X, “not to remain silent in the face of repeated attacks against the people of Kurdistan.”

Iran’s IRGC have targeted Iraqi Kurdistan before, claiming that the region is used by Iranian separatist groups and Israeli agents.

It seems the Israeli “spying headquarters” mentioned in the IRGC statements, was in fact the home of the multimillionaire Kurdish businessman Peshraw Dizayee, who facilitated export of oil from Iraqi Kurdistan to Israel.

Dizayee died in the attack on his house, along with several members of his family, according to local medical sources. He was close to the ruling elite in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Not long after the attack, Iranian state-affiliated media published footage purporting to show the aftermath of the missile attack on Dizayee’s house. Some images include a dead child and are too gruesome to be republished here.

Much less is known about the missile attacks on Syria, which the IRGC claims to have hit ISIS sites in retaliation for January 3 twin bombings at a memorial event for Iran’s most influential commander Qassem Soleimani –killed in Iraq by an American drone attack upon Donald Trump’s order.

The IRGC had warned that it would retaliate for the bombings and the killing of its commander and other proxies’ figures. It has done so, but against ‘soft targets’, not the Israelis or the Americans. It follows a familiar pattern where the regime in Iran speaks and plays tough while taking extra care to avoid direct confrontation with stronger foes.

“They always find baseless excuses to attack Erbil,” the Kurdish Regional Government said in a statement late Monday night local time. “Erbil as a stable region has never been a source of threat to any party.”

Since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, the image of the Islamic Republic as a powerful and defiant force against Israel and the United States has been partly damaged, as it has avoided direct involvement to defend its Palestinian proxy. The January 3 terror attack in Kerman that killed nearly 100 people further exposed the regime’s weakness in not being able to provide domestic security.

The missile launched on Monday can be seen as a way for Tehran to demonstrate power, while still avoiding direct confrontation with the US and Israel.

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