Iran's retaliatory strikes hit alleged Israeli target in Iraqi Kurdistan, ISIS sites in Syria

Iran's retaliatory strikes hit alleged Israeli target in Iraqi Kurdistan, ISIS sites in Syria
The IRGC ballistic missile strike in Erbil left four people dead. / bne IntelliNews
By IntellINews staff in Tehran January 16, 2024

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) says it has hit several targets in the Kurdish regions of Iraq and Syria using ballistic missiles, raising the risk of an escalation of fighting in the region . 

Iraqi media reported that Iraqi Kurdish businessman Peshraw Majid Agha Dizayee, CEO of Empire and Falcon Group companies, was killed in the strikes in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Iran alleges that he was an agent of the Israeli spy agency Mossad and that he was killed in retaliation for Israeli attacks on Iran and its surrogates in the Middle East.

“In response to the recent malicious acts of the Zionist regime [Israel], resulting in the martyrdom of IRGC commanders and the Resistance Front, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps targeted one of the main espionage centres of the Zionist regime (Mossad) in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. With superior intelligence and control over the regime's bases and movements in the region, the IRGC, using ballistic missiles, targeted and demolished this espionage centre. This centre was a hub for the development of espionage operations and the planning of terrorist activities in the region, particularly in our beloved country,” read one of a series of statements published by the IRGC following the strikes, Iranian government-owned Mehr news agency reported on January 16.

Dizayee is believed to have close ties to Israel's Mossad spy agency, Iranian media reported. At least four rockets (some sources say seven) struck the millionaire's house, which also killed at least three others including members of his family. 

Kurdish news agency, Rudaw, later reported that Karam Mikhail, an Iraqi Christian merchant and owner of Samsun Company, was also killed in the strike while he was at the home of Dizayee.

Another IRGC statement said targets of the Islamic militant group ISIS were destroyed in Syria in retaliation for the recent bombings in Kerman, for which the terrorist group claimed responsibility.

Iran's foreign ministry confirmed that the missile strikes targeting Iraq and Syria  were part of the Islamic Republic's retaliation against threats to national security.

The US condemned Iran over the missile attacks in Erbil, calling them "a reckless and imprecise set of strikes”.

"We will continue to assess the situation, but initial indications are that this was a reckless and imprecise set of strikes," Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement.

"The United States supports the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Iraq," she said, adding that no US personnel or facilities were targeted.

In a statement from his office, Iraqi Kurdish Prime Minister Masrour Barzani condemned the attack on Erbil as a "crime against the Kurdish people".

Later, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq summoned its ambassador to Tehran back to Baghdad in response to the IRGC attack on northern Erbil. The ambassador, Naseer Abdul Mohsen, has been summoned “for the purpose of consultations against the backdrop of the recent Iranian attacks on Erbil, which led to the fall of a number of martyrs and wounded”, the ministry said.

Iran’s foreign ministry had earlier said it respects Iraq’s territorial integrity, but would not hesitate to use its “legitimate and legal right” to act against those that threaten its national security.

Regarding the attack on Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said explosions were heard in Aleppo and its countryside, where "at least four missiles that came from the direction of the Mediterranean Sea" fell.

According to one of the IRGC statements, a total of 24 ballistic missiles were fired from different locations in Iran around midnight, January 15. Four were directed towards Idlib, 11 towards Erbil, and an additional nine were aimed at "occupied territories" in Syria.

The distance from Idlib, the targetted region in northwestern Syria to the point of launch for the IRGC missiles in Iran is over 1,200 kilometers, making it the longest-range missile operation conducted by Iran to date, IRGC-affiliated Tasnim news agency reported.

The IRGC attacks are the latest in a series of escalations in the region fuelled by retaliatory attacks by Israel and the US on the one hand and Iran and its so-called Resistance Front on the other. The Resistance Front, Iranian surrogates mainly operating in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, opposes Israeli aggression against Palestinians. They are backed by Iran both militarily and financially. 

The latest attacks came after the US and the UK carried out a series of airstrikes against Houthi fighters in Yemen on January 11, followed by another such strike on January 14. The Houthis, who had already been targeting Israeli and US-flagged vessels in the Red Sea.

Observers have been warning against a fast-spreading war in the region that may already be on its way to spiral out of control following the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas.