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Iraq, Pakistan Recall Iran Envoys As Arabs Set To Meet Over IRGC Strikes

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Following Iran’s airstrikes in Iraq, Syria and Pakistan, the Arab League is set to hold an emergency meeting while Islamabad and Baghdad have recalled ambassadors. 

The Iraqi state news agency announced that the meeting will focus on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Monday missile strike on Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. The date of the session is not announced yet. The country has also lodged a complaint at the United Nations Security Council and recalled its ambassador from Tehran. 

Also on Wednesday, a Pakistani foreign ministry spokeswoman said the country has recalled its ambassador over the Islamic Republic’s violation of its airspace, calling it a ‘blatant breach’ of its sovereignty. Pakistan will not allow Iran’s ambassador, who was visiting his home country, to return, the ministry said in a statement. Latest reports Wednesday evening local time spoke of Pakistan closing its border with Iran.

In less than one day, the IRGC launched missile and drone strikes on three neighboring countries, claiming ‘revenge’ for civilians and troops killed in the past few weeks. Having hit several locations in Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan Monday, IRGC missiles and drones targeted Pakistan Tuesday, in an operation that Iran said was against two bases of the Sunni militant group Jaish al-Adl. Provincial officials in Pakistan said two children were killed and several others injured by missile strikes near the Iran border, while another toddler was killed in the IRGC’s strikes in Erbil. 

A view of a damaged building following missile attacks, in Erbil, Iraq, January 16, 2024.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian said Tehran hit militants in “missile and drone” strikes, claiming that no Pakistani national was targeted. Only “terrorists” were hit, the Iranian diplomat said at Davos, Switzerland, where he was participating in the World Economic Forum, alleging that those targeted were linked to Israel. 

According to the Pakistan foreign ministry spokeswoman, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the violation was “unprovoked and unacceptable,” adding that the country reserved “the right to respond to this illegal act.”

Iran and Pakistan have rocky but functioning ties. Clashes in border areas occur from time to time, mainly involving groups such as Jaish al-Adl, which has claimed responsibility for attacks on, and the killing of, several Iranian border patrols.

On Tuesday, hours before the airstrikes, Iran and Pakistan had a joint military exercise in the Persian Gulf, according to Iran’s official news agency IRNA, and Iran’s foreign minister met Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Officials in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan, which borders Iran, said that four missiles had hit the Panjgur district close to the Iranian border. “Four missiles were fired in the village of Koh-i-Sabaz which is around 50 km inside Pakistan soil,” a senior official of the Panjgur administration told Reuters. “A mosque and three houses were damaged in the attack,” another official said. 

Iran’s muscle-flexing – using ballistic missiles on targets, some of which were well over 1,200 km away — comes amid US and UK airstrikes on Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, who, nonetheless, continue to target vessels in the Red Sea as a show of support for Palestinians in Gaza. 

While the attacks on Syria and Pakistan do not seem directly related to Israel, with Tehran claiming the strikes were targeting anti-Iran terror groups, they signal bolder direct action from Iran, which funds and supplies forces opposing Israel like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and the Houthis in Yemen. 

Claiming that the Houthis “are not receiving any orders or instructions from Tehran,” Amir-Abdollahian said in Davos that attacks against Israel and its interests by the “Axis of Resistance” will stop if the Gaza war ends. ‘Axis of Resistance’ is a term the Islamic Republic uses for its network of proxy militia across the region. 

The Biden administration is set to re-designate the Houthis as a terrorist organization in light of the terror the group is waging on global trade and targets, three years after it lifted the designation upon assuming office.