The Blog

Iran Launches Airstrikes Into Iraq

10:56 AM, May 4, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Noah Shachtman reports:

Iranian aircraft attacked three villages inside Iraq over the weekend. The airstrikes - Iran's first on Iraqi soil since the U.S. invasion - could complicate the Obama administration's efforts to normalize relations with Tehran.

"The bombardments appeared to have targeted the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an Iranian Kurdish separatist group which has launched attacks on Iran from rear-supply bases in the mountains of northern Iraq," AFP reports. Iran has attacked the Kurdish group before, with artillery. But this is the first time the Iranians followed up, with assaults from the air.

To say this complicates the Obama administration's diplomatic outreach is to put it mildly. This administration -- in fairness, not unlike the last few years of the Bush administration -- seems prepared to make an endless series of concessions to Tehran in order to secure a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue. Yet despite these repeated overtures, the Iranians refuse to budge even an inch and instead make announcements of more centrifuges and new missiles. Now they're launching airstrikes in Iraq. Will this be just another agenda item for the coming summit?

And the airstrikes expose another problem for the Obama administration: how can all U.S. combat troops leave Iraq when the country cannot protect its own airspace. The U.S. Air Force will need to remain in Iraq long past the 2011 deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.