Iran escalates fight against exiled Kurdish opposition in Iraq


Iran, rocked by more than two months of nationwide protests, has again launched strikes against Iranian Kurdish opposition groups based in the autonomous Kurdistan region in neighbouring Iraq. AFP looks at what Tehran hopes to achieve and the repercussions for the Iraqi and Kurdish players. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps launched missile and suicide drone strikes against armed Kurdish opposition groups in Iraq late Sunday , killing one fighter.

Iraqi Kurdistan has since the 1980s hosted several Iranian Kurdish rebel groups, often with the blessing of late ruler Saddam Hussein who had been at war with Iran. These factions based in the mountainous region in Iraq’s north have in the past waged an armed insurrection against Tehran, which regards them as “terrorist” organisations.

But in recent years their activities have declined and experts said they had ceased nearly all military activity. Politically on the left, these groups have decried discrimination against Iran’s Kurdish minority — about 10 million people out of a population of 83 million. The new wave of protests in Iran has again stoked tensions.

The Kurdish groups now actively back the daily demonstrations across Iran since the September 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd. Aso Saleh, member of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) executive committee, said Sunday’s strikes that hit the group are linked to the domestic situation in Iran. “Political parties, including the PDKI, support these protests through our media platform and through different NGOs, talking about the brutality of the Iranian regime,” the Sweden-based Saleh told AFP.

The PDKI denies it conducts any military activity from Iraq, including any attacks on Iran, saying only the group’s management and bureaucracy are based there. “Our bases are inside Iranian Kurdistan, near our people,” Saleh stressed. “We are prepared to defend our people in any way.” On November 14, Iran launched similar strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan that resulted in one death and eight wounded. September 28 saw a previous round of deadly strikes. Iraqi analyst Ali al-Baidar told AFP Tehran was trying to “export the Iranian crisis”. Its aim? “To force Iraqi Kurdistan to put pressure on Iranian Kurdish parties to cease their activities,” Baidar suggested. But “that will not put an end to the demonstrations in Tehran that keep growing,” he said.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani on Monday stressed that the Islamic republic “desires that there be no threat to Iran’s security from Iraqi territory”. “We insisted with the Iraqi authorities and the Kurdistan region on the fact that this region should not be a place of transit of material and weapons to be used in the unrest,” Kanani said.__Daily Times