Rockets were fired by Iranian-backed militias at Kurdish Peshmerga forces on Monday evening in Iraqi Kurdistan. A statement says that at 9:34 p.m. “some Peshmerga units and bases of [the] Kurdistan National Army, Zeravani forces and Kirkuk forces were attacked by six BM-21 type rockets. These rockets were fired from the Iranian hashds [Iranian-backed militias] patrolling the areas.”
The Peshmerga forces are the armed forces of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government of northern Iraq.
“Despite no loss on Peshmerga forces, we stand ready to retaliate against any other attacks,” a local Kurdish commander said.
According to Rudaw media “at least three rockets fired by unknown forces have landed near Peshmerga forces in the vicinity of Altun Kupri, a town located on the Kirkuk-Erbil border, according to a Peshmerga commander in Kirkuk province.”
No casualties have been reported, Nure Hama Ali, a commander in west Kirkuk, told Rudaw. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. However, rockets are often fired by Iranian groups against US bases in Iraq, and pro-Iranian groups have twice targeted Erbil’s airport in the Kurdistan region. The BM-21 is a Grad rocket of the 122 mm. variety. These were used against Erbil in the past.
Rudaw notes that “rockets have struck multiple locations in Iraq and the Kurdistan region in recent months, largely believed to have been launched by militias affiliated to Iran-backed units of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF or Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic). A spate of rockets were fired at the Kurdistan regional capital of Erbil in mid-February, killing two and injuring several others.”
This is a dangerous escalation. Tensions between Kurdish and pro-Iranian groups peaked in late 2017 after the Kurdish independence referendum. Since then tensions have been reduced. However, today, with US forces stationed in the Kurdish area, the Iranian groups are once again increasing their rhetoric.