Alleged ‘Israeli base’ in Iraq, attacked by Iran, was Kurdish businessman’s home

Sources told Reuters a meeting about supplying Europe and Turkey with gas from the Kurdistan region of Iraq with Israeli aid had angered Iran.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Iran’s claim to have struck a secret Israeli base in Iraq earlier this month was a complete fabrication, according to a Reuters report Monday, based on Iraqi and Turkish sources.

The sources told the news agency that a majority of the dozen missiles that hit Erbil on March 13 had severely damaged the home of a Kurdish businessman who is involved in his autonomous region’s oil sector and regularly hosts foreign officials and businessmen in the field.

“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, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A former American official confirmed to the agency that the company of the home owner, Baz Karim Barzanji, has been working on the plan to build the pipeline, which would be connected to one that was already constructed on the Turkish side of the two countries’ border.

None of the officials elaborated on the timeline of the plan or what role Israel could play in its development. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told a local paper in February, “We could use Israeli natural gas in our country, and beyond that, we could also work together to carry it to Europe.”

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Iran had said that its attack on Israeli “strategic centers” was retaliation for the deaths of two members of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in an IDF airstrike on a site in Syria a few days earlier.

Israel has not commented on the alleged operation, which hit “a weapons and ammunition depot operated by Iran-backed militias near the Damascus International Airport,” according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Kurds immediately rejected the claim that there are any Israeli sites in their territory.

At the time, much was also made of the fact that the missiles struck near a building that was going to be used as a new American consulate in the regional capital. The sources said that the attack could have been sending a warning that Iran would not accept such a threat to its income from gas exports to both Iraq and Turkey, which is vital to its sanctions-struck economy.

A senior Iranian official was evasive when asked by Reuters about the motives behind the missile strike.

It had a “multi-purposed message to many people and groups,” he said. “It’s up to them how to interpret it. Whatever (Israel) is planning, from energy sector to agriculture, will not materialize.”