“The Hewler administration will face difficult times if they continue to pursue policies that are not backed by their own capabilities,” writes Ercan Sezgin for Gazete Karınca.
On the 13th of March at 1:30 AM, 12 missiles were launched to the Mullah Omar area in Hewler [Erbil] where the United States consulate is located. This is not something new. In the past two years, missiles have been launched nine times, both to the region where the consulates are located and to the Hewler Airport. These attacks mostly originated from within Iraq. And pro-Iran groups frequently took the responsibility for these attacks. However, it is common knowledge that even where proxy groups took responsibility, the attacks were infact staged by Iran.
The last attack differs in its timing and in that Iran has taken responsibility directly. Iranian Revolutionary Guards announced that the target was not Hewler, but infact agents of MOSSAD, the intelligence service of Israel. MehrNews, the news agency of Iran, even published the names of nine MOSSAD agents killed in the incident. However, the Ministry of Interior of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced that there was only one civilian injured. The statements by the Iraqi and KRG officials were limited to denouncement and quite timid. Even though Iran is stating that the target is Israel, this is a lie. This is a clear declaration of war.
The timing of the event is noteworthy. The day before the incident, the regional government president Nêçîrvan Barzani and a delegation of Turkey held a meeting in which there were only Turkish flags, and the meeting was chaired by [the Turkish president] Erdogan. No details were released to the public about the meeting. However, it is apparent from the stature of the participants that it was an important meeting. The Turkish side had many officials present. It was the third meeting between Turkish and Kurdistan Regional Government officials within one month at senior level. Following a meeting between Nêçîrvan Barzani and Erdoğan, the Iraqi Federal Court had earlier ruled that exports of gas and oil from the Kurdistan region was declared illegal.
The Iranian influence on the Iraqi Federal Court is well known. Following the Iranian missile attack, the Turkish state bombed the Kani Masi region in Duhok. One civilian was injured in the bombing. No one has denounced this action or made a statement about it. On the same day, ISIS attacked Iraqi soldiers in Makhmour, and killed two Iraqi soldiers. All these incidents are interrelated: it is a mistake to treat them as independent.
Why is Iran now taking responsibility for a war that was earlier waged by proxy groups?
Firstly, Iran is making use of the balance of power that has emerged in the Russia-Ukraine war. While the US, NATO, and the Western powers focus on the war in Ukraine, Iranians intend to shift the balance of power in Iraq and in the Federal Kurdistan Region in their favour once again. Currently, the Western powers do not want Iran to become an issue during the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The US has been wishing to accelerate nuclear talks with Iran since the Russia-Ukraine war started. Iran is effectively exploiting this situation.
Iran will want to reconstruct its regional hegemony, making use of the power gap in this situation.
The second significant point is that the missiles are a threat towards Iraqi efforts to form a government and to make progress in negotiations. The recent election results were a defeat for the pro-Iran Shiite groups. When a new government is formed the Iranian influence will be weaker.
These groups have formed the Shiite Coordination Framework among themselves and have been negotiating with the Sadr movement for months, with no result to date. Since there is no agreement on who the prime minister should be or on the composition of the government, the presidential election is being delayed. The president would have to entitle someone to form the government immediately after being elected. The election cannot be held since that specific person cannot be agreed upon.
To conclude, this is the third significant intervention of Iran in the Hewler administration in the last two months: The decision of the Iraqi Federal Court regarding gas exports, the vetoing of the KDP’s [Kurdistan Democratic Party] presidential candidate, and most recently the missile attack on Hewler. When we take into consideration all of these and the new balance of power emerging in the world, The Hewler administration will face difficult times if they continue to pursue policies that are not backed by their own capabilities.