- On February 15, Erbil Airport was struck by fourteen 107mm rockets. The attack killed a contractor with the American-led military coalition and wounded five others, including a U.S. service member as well as three civilians.
- The rockets were fired from a car hidden outside an agricultural market five miles southwest of Erbil.
- Rockets were smuggled into the territory by fruit and vegetable trucks.
- The attack marks Erbil’s second recent strike, after an earlier one on September 30, 2020, with a rocket fired from the militia-controlled village of Bartala, east of Mosul.
- Despite the insecurity following Saddam Hussein’s regime’s fall in 2003, the Kurdish territory enjoyed long-term stability.
- Erbil (the capital of Kurdish territory) is a red line in terms of security. All forces and militias in Iraq have been committed not to target the Kurdish territory in northern Iraq for the past years. – This attack has significant implications for the territory’s investments and development as it raises uncertainty regarding the region’s security.
- Observers say that at least three groups participated in the attack. The first group brought the weapons. The second group smuggled and delivered the weapons into the territory’s borders. The third group─ from within the territory─ launched, supervised, and chose the operation timing.
- According to news agencies, shortly after the attack, a group known as Saraya Awliya al-Dam claimed responsibility for the attack. This group is remarkably a “page” on social media with a logo, a Telegram account, and some tweets.
- Earlier in the same day, “Ashab al-Kahf” front, affiliated with Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq group, claimed that a rocket had been fired against a Turkish base in northern Iraq. This incident reflected recent criticism by Iraqi militias of Turkish military operations aimed at restricting the movement of “PKK” in the Kurdistan and Sinjar regions.
- Some observers, however, are trying to link the so-called “Ashab al-Kahf” front, affiliated with Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq group, to Saraya Awliya al Dam that adopted the airport attack, with the coincidence of striking the Turkish base in northern Iraq by one of the factions on the same day.
- It can be assumed that the party behind the attack deliberately violated the Kurdish red line as a form of pressure on international actors supporting the stability of the territory, such as the United States of America.
- The attack reflects a situation of security balances and red lines to which armed factions active in Iraq are implicitly committed. It also demonstrates their commitment to external international agendas and their movements in deliberate political contexts following the external interests.
- The assumption that Iran moved one of its affiliated factions to carry out the attack and thus press for better terms of negotiating a nuclear agreement with the United States may be highly valid and closer to interpreting the backgrounds of what happened.
- The United States will have to prove that Iran or its affiliated factions were involved in the attack to invest it against Iran and turn it into a negotiated negative asset on the Iranian nuclear dossier.