The ‘threats are serious’: Iranian deadline looms for Kurdish parties

14-09-2023 04:20
A Group of Peshmerga of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI) in the mountains on the Iraqi-Iranian border, Dec 19, 2022. Photo: PDKI Media


Iran has set a September 19 deadline for Iranian Kurdish parties based in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to disarm and be relocated into monitored camps. This leaves the local parties walking a fine line of trying to convince Tehran that they are complying with its demands, while not violating pan-Kurdish sentiment.

In recent days, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has moved forces to the borders of the Kurdistan Region in a show of force. Iraqi Foreign minister Fuad Hussein visited Iran in an effort to convince Iranian officials that the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have done enough to prevent the need for a cross-border attack.

On September 13, Hussein met with his Iranian counterpart and said Baghdad was committed to the security agreement signed between the two countries earlier this year.

"The plan was prepared and adhered to in cooperation between the Iraqi governments and the Kurdistan Region," Hussein said during a press conference.

"We are in the process of reaching the final goal with the plan that has been drawn up. The groups on the Iraqi-Iranian border have been disarmed and refugee camps have been established that will be under the protection of [UNHCR]," he added.

The Iraqi foreign minister stressed that the constitution does not allow non-state groups to use Iraqi territory to attack the country’s neighbors.

"It is not reasonable that the relations between the two countries are excellent and that Iraqi sovereignty and Iraqi Kurdistan are threatened by bombing or launching a military campaign," Hussein said.

"We are pleased that the Iraqi government and our brother Fuad Hussein have provided good information about the expulsion of terrorist forces from areas near the Iranian border," said Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, referring to the Iranian Kurdish parties.

However, many questions remain as the deadline approaches and it is not yet clear whether enough has been done to prevent an Iranian attack.

Iran has repeatedly used drones, missiles, and artillery to attack the Iranian Kurdish parties based across the border in the Kurdistan Region.

During 2022, it intensified its attacks and repeatedly targeted the headquarters of the Iranian Kurdish parties. This year it threatened to launch a ground attack if Iraqi authorities and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) did not move the Iranian Kurdish parties into camps.

"Iran's threats are serious and we understand the sensitivity of the situation for the Kurdistan Region, so we have evacuated our military bases in the border areas of Choman and Halgurd Mountain," a senior source from one of the Iranian Kurdish parties told Peregraf.

"Measures have also been taken in headquarters and facilities near the cities. Most families have even evacuated in preparation for an Iranian missile attack that we believe is likely to come," the source added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"There is no disarmament and or moving to camps. We have evacuated several areas in coordination with Kurdistan Regional Government officials. We do not want the Region to fall under further pressure from the Iranians," the source continued.

Meanwhile, a senior KRG official told Peregraf that they "are ready to show the Iranians that the areas on the border have been evacuated and the military bases have been destroyed. There is no excuse that these forces are a threat to Iran's security."

"We cannot disarm them and gather them all in one camp. The Iranians must understand this situation," they added.

Earlier, Mohammad Nazif Qaderi, head of public relations for the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), called statements by Iranian officials about disarming and moving the Iranian Kurdish parties into monitored camps "worthless."

"The statements of Iranian officials are illogical and have no basis. They want to interfere in Iraq with these excuses," Qaderi told Peregraf on August 28.

"What we have in the Kurdistan Region is a camp of civilians and KRG officials are aware of it. Our field of struggle is Iranian Kurdistan and there has been no threat to the Islamic Republic from the Kurdistan Region," he continued. "It is not for Iran to interfere and bombard our camps in the Kurdistan Region."

Along with its diplomatic efforts to implement the security agreement, Iran has made visible military movements along the border with the Kurdistan Region.

In recent days, human rights organization Hengaw released two videos of military convoys, indicating the IRGC has moved large numbers of troops and heavy weapons to Saqqez and Marivan near the border with the Kurdistan Region.

"We in the Kurdistan Region, as part of Iraq, are committed to the [Iran-Iraq security] agreement and we do not want the Kurdistan Region to be a threat to any of our neighbors, neither to Iran nor to Turkey and not for any party," Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani told reporters on September 13.

"In this context, some important steps have been taken in coordination with Baghdad and we hope that these steps will not lead to any security and military problems. I do not believe there is any excuse for military action," he said.

The issue of the Iranian Kurdish parties was also a major issue during PUK leader Bafel Talabani’s recent visit to Tehran.

The Iranian pressure comes days before the first anniversary of the death of Zhina Masha Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died in custody after being arrested by Iran’s feared morality police in her hometown of Saqqez.

A general strike has been called for September 16 to mark a year since her death, which sparked massive protests across Iran. Hundreds of people have been killed, wounded, and arrested in connection with the demonstrations. Tehran has accused the Iranian Kurdish parties of orchestrating the unrest.

"For many reasons, we as the Iraqi state consider it our duty to address Iran's security concerns about armed movements residing in the Kurdistan Region," Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani told Iranian journalists in Baghdad on September 8.

"We have spent more than $200 million and deployed more than 3,000 guards across the Iranian border with the Kurdistan Region," he added.

Sudani said the issue of the Iranian Kurdish parties "is very complicated," but claimed that "we have been able to disarm them,"

The prime minister conceded that the relocation of the parties into monitored camps "is not yet complete."

"However, we have made great efforts to meet our obligations by the end of the time specified in the agreement," he added.