U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman denied that the American consulate in Erbil, in northern Iraq, was the target of a ballistic missile attack on Saturday, in comments to Fox News Sunday.
“This was a very concerning attack,” Sherman told host Bret Baier. “Indeed, we do not believe that the consulate was actually the target of this missile attack. . . . This was an attack on Iraq’s sovereignty, among other things, and of great concern to all of us.”
Twelve ballistic missiles struck near the U.S. consulate on Saturday, according to initial reports. The U.S. State Department said there were no American casualties and no damage to the building, which is currently not in use because it is brand new.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps claimed responsibility for the attack on Sunday morning in a statement to state media, saying it had targeted Israeli “strategic centers” in Erbil. The missile attack came days after two IRGC officers were killed in Syria in an alleged Israeli air strike.
“Any repetition of attacks by Israel will be met with a harsh, decisive and destructive response,” the IRGC said.
The news comes amid reports that Biden administration negotiators are attempting to finalize a return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. While officials were reportedly close to an agreements, negotiations faltered on Friday after Russia demanded that sanctions on its economy over its invasion of Ukraine exempt all trade between Russia and Iran.
Baier pressed Sherman to justify why the U.S. should negotiate a return to the nuclear deal while the U.S. consulate in Erbil was fired upon, even if it wasn’t the intended target.
“If Iran has a nuclear weapon, its ability to project power into the Middle East and to deter us, our allies and partners, is enormous,” Sherman responded. “We’ve got to make sure that they cannot obtain a nuclear weapon.”
Following Sherman’s comments, Senator Jim Risch (R., Idaho) said the Biden administration is living in an “alternate universe” with regard to the Iran deal.
“I heard Wendy trying to excuse the Iranians, that well, they didn’t really intend to shoot at our embassy there in Iraq. What else were they shooting at?” Risch told Baier. “They fired these missiles at a U.S. installation, and now Wendy is saying ‘Oh, well we need to get [a deal] signed as quick as possible.’ I mean that got them exactly what they wanted, it sounds like to me.”