Baghdad (Times Of Ocean)- An emerging plan to supply gas to Turkey and Europe from Kurdistan, with Israeli help, angered Iran enough to strike the Kurdish capital Erbil with ballistic missiles this month, Iraqi and Turkish officials say.
In its ferocity, the March 13 attack on Erbil shocked officials throughout the region, and was a rare public declaration of an assault by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The IRGC said the strike hit Israeli “strategic centers” in Erbil, in retaliation for an Israeli air strike that killed two of its members in Syria.
Many analysts and officials were puzzled by the choice of target. The majority of the 12 missiles were fired at the home of a Kurdish businessman involved in the region’s energy sector.
In their interviews with Reuters this week, Iraqi and Turkish officials said they believe the attack was intended to send a multi-pronged message to U.S. allies in the region – but that a key trigger was a plan to pump Kurdish gas into Turkey and Europe, with the involvement of Israel.
“There had been two recent meetings between Israeli and U.S. energy officials and specialists at the villa to discuss shipping Kurdistan gas to Turkey via a new pipeline,” an Iraqi security official said.
IRGC and Iran’s foreign ministry did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
An Iranian security official told Reuters the attack was a “multi-purpose message.” The interpretation will depend on the individual.
Several Turkish officials confirmed that U.S. and Israeli officials recently met to discuss Iraq supplying Turkey and Europe with natural gas, but they declined to specify where the talks took place.
A former U.S. official and an Iraqi security official with knowledge of the plans said that Baz Karim Barzanji, a Kurdish businessman whose villa was hit by the Iranian missiles, was working on developing the pipeline.
As widely reported, the Iranian attack on Erbil is in the context of regional players’ energy interests rather than a single Israeli attack on the IRGC.
Israel’s foreign ministry said it was not familiar with the issue. A request for comment from Barzanji was not immediately returned.
Nechirvan Barzani’s office denied any meetings with U.S. and Israeli officials about a pipeline took place at Barzani’s villa. Kurds deny there is an Israeli military or official presence on their territory.