U.S. Working to Help Iraq Get Missile Defense Capabilities, Sullivan Says After Iranian Attack

Iran says the attack on Iraq's northern Kurdish regional capital of Irbil was retaliation for an Israeli strike in Syria, which killed two members of its Revolutionary Guard earlier this week

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View of a damaged building in the aftermath of missile attacks in Irbil, Iraq, Sunday.
View of a damaged building in the aftermath of missile attacks in Irbil, Iraq, Sunday.Credit: AZAD LASHKARI/ REUTERS

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday condemned Iran's ballistic missile attack on Iraq's northern Kurdish regional capital of Irbil, and said Washington was working to help Iraq get missile defense capabilities to defend itself.

Iran claimed responsibility for the attack near a sprawling U.S. consulate complex, saying it was retaliation for an Israeli strike in Syria that killed two members of its Revolutionary Guard earlier this week.

No injuries were reported in the strike, which marked a significant escalation between the United States and Iran. Hostility between the longtime foes has often played out in Iraq, whose government is allied with both countries.

Sullivan told CBS's "Face the Nation" program that no U.S. citizens were harmed in the attack, and no U.S. facilities were hit, but the United States would do whatever it takes to defend its people, interests and allies.

"We are in consultation with the Iraqi government and the government in Iraqi Kurdistan, in part to help them get the missile defense capabilities to be able to defend themselves in their cities," he said.

In an interview with "Fox News Sunday," Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman called the attack "very concerning," as it was "an attack on Iraqi sovereignty."

"We do not believe the consulate was in fact the target of this attack," Sherman stated, without giving more details. 

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said on its website that it attacked what it described as an Israeli spy center in Irbil. It did not elaborate, but in a statement said Israel had been on the offensive, citing the recent strike that killed two members of the Revolutionary Guard.

The semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted an unnamed source as saying Iran fired 10 Fateh missiles, including several Fateh-110 missiles, which have a range of about 300 kilometers (186 miles).

The source said the attack resulted in multiple casualties and said the main target for the missiles was the "Zionist base, which is far from the American military base.”

Meanwhile, Iraqi security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there were no casualties from the Irbil attack. One of the Iraqi officials said the ballistic missiles were fired from Iran, without elaborating. He said the Iranian-made Fateh-110 missiles likely were fired in retaliation for the two Revolutionary Guards killed in Syria.

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Mathew Tueller, said the U.S. condemns the criminal attack on civilian targets in Irbil. “Iranian regime elements have claimed responsibility for this attack and must be held accountable for this flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty,” he said in a statement posted by the U.S. consulate in Irbil.

U.S. forces stationed at Irbil’s airport compound have come under fire from rocket and drone attacks in the past, with U.S. officials blaming Iran-backed groups.

"Iran had carried out attacks against American targets and did not shy away from publicizing this," said Hamidreza Azizi, a visiting fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. "I see this more as a warning sign to Israel."

The Hezbollah-affiliated Al Mayadeen news outlet cited Iranian sources as saying that the attack was not related to Israel's alleged killing of two Iranian Revolutionary Guard members in Syria last week, but rather to other Israeli operations against Iranian targets.

The report said that the ballistic missiles were fired at Mossad headquarters in Irbil, alleging that four Israeli officers were killed and seven wounded in the attack. It also mentioned that Iranian intelligence agents took down an Israeli spy ring operating in the country in an attempt to recruit local agents.

The missile barrage coincided with regional tensions. Negotiations in Vienna over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal hit a “pause” over Russian demands about sanctions targeting Moscow for its war on Ukraine. 

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