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U.S. condemns Iran's "reckless missile strikes" near new American consulate in Erbil, northern Iraq

Iran vows retribution after memorial blast
Iran promises "harsh response" after explosions at memorial event for general 05:16

Erbil, Iraq — Iran's foreign minister confirmed Tuesday that his country's forces had launched ballistic missiles at targets in both Iraq and Syria, as the U.S. and Iraq condemned deadly strikes that hit close to the under-construction U.S. consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil. 

It was yet another manifestation of violence likely linked to the ongoing war in Gaza between Israel and Iran's Hamas allies. Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have also been targeting commercial vessels in the strategic Red Sea shipping lanes for weeks in response to the war. 

Three armed drones were shot down over Erbil's airport later Tuesday. The U.S. has forces based at the airport, part of an international coalition battling ISIS in the region. There was no immediate word on damage.

The drones were downed just hours after Iran launched at least 11 missiles targeting what it claimed was an Israeli intelligence headquarters in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, killing four civilians.

Missile attacks on several locations in Iraq's Erbil
Teams carry out search and rescue operations after drone and missile attacks in Erbil, northern Iraq, carried out by Iran, Jan. 16, 2024. Karzan Mohammad Othman/Anadolu/Getty

The Iraqi government condemned the attack, ordered an investigation and told its ambassador in Iran to come home and report on the strikes, while also summoning Iran's top diplomat in Baghdad for discussions.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement saying it "strongly condemns Iran's attacks in Erbil," lambasting the "reckless missile strikes, which undermine Iraq's stability."

Iran claims it hit an Israeli spy base

Iran said the attacks were retaliation for "anti-Iran groups" in the region, including ISIS, after a deadly attack last week in the Iranian city of Kerman. Two large blasts just minutes apart targeted a commemoration on Jan. 4 for a prominent Iranian general who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Iraq in 2020. The attack in Kerman left almost 90 people dead.

In the Erbil strikes, Iranian missiles hit the home of well-known Kurdish businessman Peshraw Dizayi, who was killed along with his 1-year-old daughter. His two sons and wife were seriously wounded.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards military unit said in a statement that "one of the main Mossad [Israeli intelligence] espionage headquarters in Iraq's Kurdistan region was destroyed with ballistic missiles," calling the Erbil strikes a response to "recent atrocities" it blamed on Israel.

A damaged building is seen following a missile strike launched by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Erbil, northern Iraq, Jan. 16, 2024. SAFIN HAMID/AFP/Getty

It cited, specifically, "the killing of commanders of the Guards and the Axis of Resistance," a term Iran uses to refer to the loosely affiliated anti-Israel groups it supports in the region, including Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

"Everything to do with the U.S.-Iran tit-for-tat"

It was the second time since March 2022 that the Iranian Guards had directly targeted Erbil, and both times they used the same justification. In 2022, the home of another Kurdish businessman was targeted with eight ballistic missiles.

Since Israel launched its war against Hamas in Gaza in response to the Palestinian group's bloody Oct. 7 terror attack, Iran's proxies across the region have intensified attacks on U.S. and coalition bases in Iraq and Syria, including many around Erbil.

"Last night's attack has nothing to do with Israel or the Kurds, but it has everything to do with the U.S.-Iran tit-for-tat in the region," said Hiwa Osman, a political analyst based in Erbil.

"This is a calculated Iranian act, within the parameters of the American's tolerance, at the expense of the Kurds," Osman told CBS News.

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