Iraq has recalled its ambassador in Tehran after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) struck what they said was the spy headquarters of Israel in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, a deadly attack that deepened fears over the eroding stability in the Middle East.

Baghdad on January 16 also summoned Iran’s charge d’affaires to protest the IRGC attack, which involved ballistic missiles being fired at what they called Israel-linked targets in Iraq’s Erbil while also striking locations in Syria’s Idlib used by Islamic State (IS).

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry denounced the attack as an act of “aggression against Iraq’s sovereignty” and said the government had formed a committee to investigate the incident and “prove” the Iranian claims wrong.

The attack in Erbil killed at least four civilians, including prominent Kurdish businessman Peshraw Dizayee, according to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of the KRG, condemned the “cowardly attack” and urged the Iraqi government to “take a principled position against the flagrant violation of Iraq’s and the Kurdistan region’s sovereignty,” according to the Iraqi Kurdish website Rudaw.

The strikes come amid growing concerns that the war between Israel and Hamas, which has been designated by the United States and European Union as a terrorist organization, may escalate and engulf the entire region.

The United States also criticized “Iran’s reckless missile strikes” in Erbil, with State Department spokesman Matthew Miller offering Washington’s support to both the Iraqi government and the KRG.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry defended the missile strikes in Iraq and Syria, with spokesman Nasser Kanani saying in a statement that while Iran “respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries,” it “will never hesitate” to use its “legitimate and legal right to take deterrent” measures against “sources of threat against its national security.”

The Revolutionary Guards said the strikes in Iraq were in response to the killing of several “Resistance Axis” commanders, including IRGC generals, by Israel. The so-called Resistance Axis refers to Iran’s network of allies in the region.

Three IRGC generals were killed in suspected Israeli strikes in Syria in December, including Iran’s top commander in the country, Seyyed Razi Mousavi.

The Revolutionary Guards also suggested that the strikes in Syria were in retaliation for the deadly twin suicide bombings in Kerman on January 3 that killed nearly 100 people and wounded scores at a memorial for top commander Qassem Soleimani. IS claimed responsibility for the bombings.

Iranian media described the attacks as the largest and longest-range missile strikes yet by the IRGC.

IRGC Aerospace Force Commander Amirali Hajizadeh on January 16 said a total of 24 missiles were fired in the operations, most of which targeted Erbil.

To strike alleged IS targets in Syria, the IRGC used four Khaibarshekan missiles, which traveled more than 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) from Khuzestan Province in southwest Iran to Idlib in northwestern Syria.

Iran’s Fars news agency, which is affiliated with the IRGC, claimed on January 16 that the strike in Syria showed that Israel is within reach of Iran, while also serving as a warning to the United States that Iran’s regional allies, including Hezbollah and the Huthi rebels in Yemen, “can be equipped with the same missiles.”

The U.S. Central Command on January 16 said it had seized a small boat on January 11 carrying advanced Iranian-made weapons to the Huthis, as the group continues to target commercial vessels in the Red Sea.

Source » rferl