From time to time, Iran sends inimical messages to US and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) through pro-Iranian militias in Iraq. On 15th February, a barrage of rockets hit a U.S airbase at the International Airport of Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Despite Iran’s official denial of involvement, most indications suggest that Iran was behind the rocket strike.
Iran’s antagonistic letters carry tacit political signals to Biden’s administration as well as to KRG. More precisely, to Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) who has no good relationships with Tehran. Iran’s first signal to Biden’s administration is the necessity to return to 2015 nuclear deal without preconditions. Therefore, many observers consider this attack as the first serious test of Biden’s Iran policy.
Another purpose that Tehran wanted to accomplish is to remind its bitter adversary, viz., U.S, that Iran is still the most powerful rival to U.S and its allies in Iraq. Moreover, to demonstrate that Iran, through pro-Iranian armed groups, can move easily from defense to offensive position anytime and anywhere it desires. In other words, to prove that it can change the game rules in Iraq upside down, which have been placed by U.S since 2003.
The recent rocket attack on Erbil was claimed by a Shia group called Saraya Awliya al-Dam, or Guardians of Blood. However, Iraqi security officials told “Agence France-Presse” that the name of this group is fictitious of well-known armed factions loyal to Iran that want the American forces to withdraw from Iraq. Anyway, it is one of a series of popular, political, and violent activities against the presence of U.S in Iraq led by pro-Iranian factions.
Tehran’s current escalating message against U.S is that Iran can launch individual operations against various American targets in Iraq. The goal is to gradually push US forces to withdraw from Iraq. Therefore, it would be better for Washington, according to Iran’s expectations, to return to 2015 nuclear deal without prerequisites plus to lift economic sanctions on Iranian government. Especially since Tehran increased the level of uranium enrichment and threatened to withdraw from the 2015 agreement by the 21st of February if US did not implement Iranian conditions.
For the relatively stable and prosperous Kurdistan region compared to the rest of Iraq, Iran began to antagonise Erbil and KDP since the independence referendum in September 2017. It started with taking control of the city of Kirkuk via its affiliated Popular Mobilisation Militias in October 2017 after the withdrawal of Kurdish Peshmerga.
On September 30, 2020, pro-Iranian militias fired 6 missiles at a place near Erbil International Airport. On 17th October 2020, Pro-Iran protesters torched KDP offices in Baghdad. Nowadays, Iran demands its loyal Shiite political forces in Iraq to review the Iraqi constitution and to abolish federalism in order to harm the Federal Kurdistan Region.
Meanwhile, Iran is still working to disrupt the agreement that was reached between Baghdad and Erbil on Sinjar last October. All these aggressive policies and others are because of KRG’s rejection to surrender to Iranian agendas in Iraq, including the Silk Road project that is supposed to pass through Sinjar, the disputed area between KRG and Baghdad. This road, which would link Iran directly to the Mediterranean in Syria and Lebanon together. Iran’s current escalation against Kurdistan region coincides with Turkey’s successive military operations in Iraqi Kurdistan under the pretext of fighting PKK militants.
Probably Iran will continue, via its local militias, to target American bases everywhere in Iraq including Kurdistan region. Even, it is more likely that Iran will intensify such aggressive activities in the near future to coerce US to go back to 2015 nuclear deal. In this context, Iran will not hesitate to cooperate with Turkey that share together antagonism towards Kurdish aspirations in the entire region. Likewise, both states are outraged by American military role in Iraq and Syria, the role that both countries dislike it, and both want to weed out promptly.