WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) - State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert reiterated the US condemnation of Iran’s missile attack on the Kurdistan Region.
On Saturday, Iran launched short-range missiles at the headquarters of two Iranian opposition groups—the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Iran (KDP-I), as well as a refugee camp for Iranian Kurds in the town of Koya in the Kurdistan Region.
The Iranian strike killed 14 people and injured 40 more, the KDP-I said.
On Tuesday, responding to a question from Kurdistan 24, Nauert characterized the attack as “another effort to destabilize that country, that government, and destabilize the region.”
“We condemn” the attack, she said, describing it as “a clear violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.”
“Iran continues to be a bad actor in the region,” she added, and “we continue to support Iraq’s sovereignty.”
“We expect Iran to fully respect the sovereignty of Iraq and other regional states and to stop this destabilizing behavior.”
On Monday, in a phone call with the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, US Vice-President Mike Pence “condemned Iran’s recent rocket attacks into the Kurdistan Region as an effort to threaten and destabilize its closest neighbor,” according to a White House read-out of their conversation.
“The leaders also discussed the Kurdish position during [Iraqi] government formation and reaffirmed the strategic partnership between the Kurds and the United States,” the White House summary continued.
Notably, the White House read-out emphasized the “strategic partnership” with the Kurds, while Nauert’s statement carefully reflected the State Department’s long-established “one-Iraq” policy, in which Erbil is subordinated to Baghdad.
Pence had intended to speak with Barzani for some time, an informed source told Kurdistan 24, but the Vice President’s busy schedule postponed the communication.
Thus, the Iranian missile strike was not the fundamental reason for Pence’s call—his first as Vice-President to the KRG Prime Minister. Rather, it was rooted in Pence’s concern to preserve millennial-old minority religious communities in northern Iraq and the recognition that effort requires security and political stability.
The Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) recently detailed the deterioration of security in the disputed territories since Iraq’s October 16 assault on Kirkuk, in a military operation engineered by Qasim Soleimani, head of the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“With over 700 total incidents logged,” since October, “August has emerged as especially destabilizing in the disputed territories, with at least 80 incidents,” the KRSC reported.
That includes over 40 IED attacks on Iraqi Security Forces, including the Shia militias in and around Kirkuk, with another 28 attacks involving Islamic State (IS) firefights and suicide bombers.
It also includes at least six attacks on the electricity infrastructure since May, leading to power cuts which have become a sensitive political issue following the protests in Basra against the abysmal public services there, including the lack of electricity and clean drinking water.
US authorities recognize the deterioration in security, as detailed by the KRSC.
A recently-released report from the office of the Defense Department’s Lead Inspector General noted, “Insurgent activity increased in Kirkuk, Diyala, and [Salahuddin] provinces” during the last quarter of the year (ending on June 30.)
“Most of the violence” occurred in the disputed territories, where “militants were able to move around and establish checkpoints at night with relative ease,” the report explained.
Editing by Nadia Riva