Why did Iranian media claim Iran targeted ‘two advanced Israeli centers’ in Erbil - analysis

If Iran can claim it has struck at both it gets to claim it has struck two for the price of one. This doesn’t mean that Iran has actually done what it claims to have done.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi gestures as he speaks at Tehran's Friday prayer on the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution of Iran in Tehran, Iran, February 11, 2022. (photo credit: PRESIDENT WEBSITE/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi gestures as he speaks at Tehran's Friday prayer on the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution of Iran in Tehran, Iran, February 11, 2022.
(photo credit: PRESIDENT WEBSITE/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Iran took credit for targeting northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region with a dozen missiles on Sunday morning. It claimed responsibility for targeting a US military base, the US Consulate in Erbil, “two Mossad training centers in Erbil and an explosion in the Sulaimaniyah area in northern Iraq,” according to Iran’s Fars News Agency and Tasnim News Agency.

Both of the news agencies quoted other media outlets regarding claims Iran struck at Israeli sites, but they nevertheless put the claims in their headlines, which appeared to launder or affirm the reports.

Fars and Tasnim are considered close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, so their reports represent the Iranian government position on the attacks that occurred.

How does Iran benefit from this?

Iran is openly bragging about the attacks. Tehran’s decision to try to connect Israel with these attacks that targeted an area near where the US is building a large new consulate in northern Iraq may bring Iran several benefits.

Firstly, it makes it seem like Iran is targeting Israel, without Iran having to target inside Israel using missiles. Secondly, this is not the first time Iran spread claims it targeted the “Mossad” in northern Iraq. Last April, Iran also claimed it targeted the “Mossad” in northern Iraq. Kurdish officials at the time denied any Israeli presence in the autonomous region.

 A plane is seen at the Erbil International Airport in Erbil, Iraq September 29, 2017. (credit: REUTERS/AZAD LASHKARI) A plane is seen at the Erbil International Airport in Erbil, Iraq September 29, 2017. (credit: REUTERS/AZAD LASHKARI)

Iran used 14 122-mm. “Grad” rockets to “hit near the US military base on the outskirts of Erbil Airport and around the US Consulate in Erbil,” an Iranian media report said, adding that “the US Consulate headquarters in Erbil, the capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, had been hit by five missiles.”

However, Iran tries to distance itself a bit from the report on attacks on Israeli sites by quoting another media outlet as saying that “the rocket attacks targeted two advanced Israeli Mossad training centers in Erbil, northern Iraq.” It references “Saber” news in this report.

What is the point of Iran muddying the waters here? Iran wants to show it can strike at the US and others in northern Iraq. Tehran has long tried to spread claims that Israel is active in Iraq, and this is part of the overall Iranian campaign to use Iraq against Israel.

Iran moved ballistic missiles to Iraq in 2019 and 2020. Pro-Iran voices also blamed Israel for attacks in Iraq in 2019. Some online voices also claimed that Iran’s attack in Iraq was linked to the killing of two Iranian officers in Syria recently.

This means Iran is trying to link several things into one major attack in Iraq – an attack targeting the US in Iraq. Iran has supposedly done this before, attacking the Tanf base in Syria and then spreading media reports that this was in response to Israeli airstrikes in Syria.

For Iran, the US and Israel are both enemies, and Tehran is part of the “resistance” against both countries. If Iran can claim it has struck at both, it gets to claim it has struck two for the price of one.

This doesn’t mean that Iran has actually done what it claims, or even that the rumors it spreads on social media are accurate. Rather, this is messaging. Iran wants to send a message about striking at Israel without necessarily striking at Israel.