Iran Strikes Targets in Northern Iraq and Syria as Regional Tensions Escalate

This image taken from video provided by Rudaw TV shows smoke rising from a building hit by a strike in Irbil, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. Photo: Rudaw TV via AP

IRBIL, Iraq — Iran said late Monday it had launched strikes against a “spy headquarters and gathering of anti-Iranian terrorist groups” shortly after missiles hit an upscale area near the U.S. consulate in Irbil, the seat of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

The security council of the Kurdish regional government said in a statement that four civilians were killed and six injured in the strikes.

Peshraw Dizayi, a prominent local businessman with a portfolio that included real estate and security services companies, was killed in one of the strikes along with members of his family, according to a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, by former Iraqi member of parliament Mashan al-Jabouri, who said that one of the missiles had fallen on Dizayi’s “palace, next to my house, which is under construction on the road to the Salah al-Din resort.”

Other regional political figures also confirmed Dizayi's death.

Soon after, a statement from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on state media said it had struck “terrorist operations” including Islamic State targets in Syria “and destroyed them by firing a number of ballistic missiles.” Another statement claimed that it had hit a headquarters of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility earlier this month for two suicide bombings targeting a commemoration for an Iranian general slain in a 2020 U.S. drone strike. The attack in Kerman killed at least 84 people and wounded an additional 284 at a ceremony honoring Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Last month, Iran accused Israel of killing a high-ranking Iranian general, Seyed Razi Mousavi, in an airstrike on a Damascus neighborhood.

An Iraqi security official said Irbil was targeted with “several” ballistic missiles but did not give further details. An official with an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia said 10 missiles fell in the area near the U.S. consulate. He said the missiles were launched by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

A U.S. defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details that had not been made public said the U.S. tracked the missiles, which hit in northern Iraq and northern Syria, and no U.S. facilities were struck or damaged in the attacks. The official said initial indications were that the strike were “reckless and imprecise.”

In 2022, Iran claimed responsibility for a missile barrage that struck in the same area near the sprawling U.S. consulate complex in Irbil, saying it was retaliation for an Israeli strike in Syria that killed two members of its Revolutionary Guard.

The strikes come at a time of heightened tensions in the region and fears of a wider spillover of the ongoing war in Gaza.

Since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, Iranian-backed militias in Iraq have launched near-daily drone attacks on bases housing U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, which the groups have said was in retaliation for Washington’s support of Israel, and in an attempt to force U.S. troops to leave the region.

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