What's In Blue

Posted Tue 22 Nov 2022

Iranian Strikes in Iraq: Meeting under “Any Other Business”

This afternoon (22 November), following the briefing and closed consultations on Yemen, Security Council members will discuss recent Iranian strikes in Iraq under “any other business”. The meeting was requested by France, the UK, and the US. No briefer is expected.

Iran has carried out several attacks in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq since the wave of protests sparked by the death of Kurdish-Iranian woman Mahsa Amini began in mid-September. (The Kurdistan Region is a semi-autonomous territory in north-eastern Iraq comprising four Kurdish majority governorates, which is bordered by Iran, Syria, and Türkiye.) Iran has targeted Kurdish-Iranian opposition groups, accusing them of fomenting the protests—allegations that some of these groups have denied.

During an attack which took place on 14 November, at least two people were killed and another ten wounded when ballistic missiles and drones struck the bases of Kurdish-Iranian opposition groups in the Kurdistan Region. According to media reports, the deputy head of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI), Amanj Zebaii, said that Iranian ballistic missiles hit the group’s headquarters in the city of Koya and five smaller mountain bases in the Sidakan area. An official from the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KKP), another Kurdish-Iranian opposition group, reportedly said that its base near Sulaymaniyah was targeted by five suicide drones during the attack.

On 21 November, Tasnim, a semi-official Iranian news agency that has been linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), reported that the IRGC had attacked three areas in the Kurdistan Region with missiles and drones, killing at least 26 members of the PDKI and the KKP.

The recent attacks follow a series of Iranian strikes against Kurdish-Iranian groups in north-eastern Iraq in late September. On 24 September, Iranian state media reported that the IRGC had conducted an artillery attack against the bases of Kurdish-Iranian organisations in the Kurdistan Region. Two days later, on 26 September, Iraqi officials reported that the IRGC had attacked villages in Sidakan for close to eight hours. The IRGC also launched missile and drone strikes against the PDKI, the KKP, and the Kurdistan Freedom Party on 28 September. At least 13 people were killed and 58 wounded during the 28 September strikes, which targeted the Koy Sanjaq district of Erbil, the village of Zarkwezela in Sulaymaniyah Governorate, and Kirkuk Governorate. One of the drones directed toward Erbil was shot down by US forces because it posed a “threat to [US Central Command] forces in the area”, according to a statement from a US official.

A 29 September Tasnim article argued that the opposition groups have intensified their activities to “foment riots in Kurdish cities across the border in Iran and took advantage of protests in the country to incite chaos and carry out armed attacks”. It quoted IRGC Commander Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour as saying that that the attacks will continue until “the complete disarmament of the anti-Iranian and separatist terrorist group”. According to media reports, a senior Iranian military official visited Baghdad last week and threatened Iraq with a ground invasion if it does not disarm Iranian-Kurdish groups in north-eastern Iraq and fortify the border between the two countries.

Several of these groups have reportedly denied Iran’s allegations. On 28 September, the PDKI, which claims to advocate for “Kurdish national rights within a federal and democratic Iran”, tweeted that the IRGC had attacked the Kurdistan Region “to divert attention from the ongoing protests in Kurdistan and Iran” and called on the international community “not to remain silent”.

In a press release issued on the same day, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said that the September attacks were a “dangerous development that threatens the security and sovereignty of Iraq” which will “complicate the security scene and cast a shadow over the region, and will only contribute to more tension”. During a 14 November telephone conversation with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein reportedly stressed the importance of holding dialogue to “stop this unjustified hostile escalation”. A 14 November statement issued by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry also noted that Iraq “will take high level diplomatic measures” in response. The Kurdistan Regional Government has similarly criticised the attacks, calling them “repetitive violations of the sovereignty of the Kurdistan Region”.

Both the US and the EU have denounced Iran’s recent strikes on Iraq. In a 14 November statement, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said that the US calls on Iran “to stop these attacks and refrain from further threats against Iraq’s territorial integrity” and “shares the government of Iraq’s objective to preserve the country’s security, stability, and sovereignty”. On 15 November, the EU issued a press statement which condemned the attacks in “the strongest possible terms” and said that they “violate Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and “should stop”. Some Council members might express similar views during their interventions today.

Today’s meeting takes place against a backdrop of worsening violence in Iran, particularly in the Kurdish regions of the country. According to Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights, at least 342 people have been killed and more than 15,000 arrested throughout Iran during the unrest. Some of those arrested have reportedly been sentenced to death for their involvement in the protests.

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