U.S. violates Vienna Convention status of Iranian liaison office in Irbil, Iraq. U.S. forces take Iranian diplomats hostage.
In a major escalation of Middle East tensions, the Bush administration authorized two U.S. Special Forces operations against the Iranian liaison office in Irbil, Iraq and took six officials assigned to the diplomatic compound hostage. It was the first such attack on an Iranian diplomatic mission in the region since August 1998 when the Taliban entered the Iranian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan and executed ten Iranian diplomats and one journalist. Ironically, in their attacks on Iranian diplomatic missions, the Bush administration and Taliban have something in common — both governments claimed the Iranians at the missions were members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Iran rejected the charges leveled by both regimes.
In a scene reminiscent of the Iranian seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, the U.S. confiscated documents from the Irbil office. Computers were also seized. U.S. forces also took down the Iranian flag.
Bush orders U.S. forces to storm Iranian liaison office in Kurdistan removing its flag.
A second U.S. Special Forces raid was unsuccessfully conducted against Irbil airport but it was stopped when Kurdish Pesh Merga forces surrounded U.S. forces and threatened to open fire with their U.S.-provided weapons. U.S. forces tried to abduct additional people at the airport.
Both attacks came within hours of George W. Bush’s speech in which he called for the dispatch of over 20,000 more U.S. troops to the Iraqi bloodbath and threatened military action against Iran and Syria.
Iran and Iraq said the Iranian liaison office, present in Irbil for 10 years, was in the process of being upgraded to a consulate. The Kurdish government treated the office as a working consulate. In fact, a number of countries have opened consulates in Irbil whose diplomats are accredited to the de facto independent Kurdish Regional Government, including Iran, Russia, Turkey, Britain, France, Germany, Czech Republic, and the Netherlands. The United States opened its consulate in Irbil and urged other countries to do the same. The United States then attacked and invaded the Iranian liaison office.
Meanwhile, there have been a series of bombings in the Arab majority southwest province of Khuzestan. British Special Forces and intelligence agents have carried out these attacks in conjunction with the Arab Ahwaz separatists that seek to break the oil-rich off from Iran.