American and Kurdish military instructors in northern Iraq are training dozens of fighters recruited from groups of Iranian Kurdish refugees that are making their way across the frontier into Iraq.
Reporting this, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military and intelligence sources reveal they are coming in their hundreds for the intensive, three-week training program taking place in a purpose-built camp near Koi Sanjad, a Kurdish city north of Suleimaniya and Kirkuk. The camp is protected from Iranian cross-border raids by two bodies of water, the Little Zab River and the large lake created by the Rukan Dam, which are situated between the facility and the frontier.
The United States is building guerrilla units for operation in a military framework. They will be sent on missions into Iran as necessary. But for now, the Americans are merely signaling Tehran that the Iraqi-Iranian border is a two-way street and not open for the penetration of Iranian agents into Iraq alone. If the Iranians do not heed this message, the guerrillas will be sent across the border into the Kurdish regions of western Iran to ignite an armed Kurdish insurrection against the Iranian regime. A Kurdish Intifada in northern Iran, coinciding with the Arab rebellion underway in the south, could make life pretty precarious for the ayatollahs in Tehran.
The US has given the guerrilla force a political framework by “adopting” the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and its general secretary, Yura Mustafa Hejari.
This party traditionally advocates passive resistance to the Tehran government and warns fellow Kurds not to engage in armed conflict with the regime. The photo accompanying this article explains the KDPI’s non-confrontational line. It shows three Kurds hanged from a roof in Saqez, one of the Iranian Kurdish cities. The Iranian military and Revolutionary Guards units maintain a heavy presence in all of the Kurdish cities in Iran, including Saqez, Sanandez and Kermanshah. Any signs of rebellion or talk about Kurdish independence or rights are dealt with summarily with an iron fist. Kurds coming under suspicion of stoking the fires of insurrection are usually hanged without trial.
Iran‘s Kurds ripe for action
However, DEBKA-Net-Weekly sources in Paris report that, 10 months ago, the party held a secret conference in the French capital. It was then that US officials made first contacts with KDPI activists – some of whom were brought to France by French intelligence. That developed into another case of US-French intelligence collaboration in the wake of preparations for their joint endeavor in Lebanon and Syria.
By early 2005, Hejari was telling party activists that passive resistance to the Islamic regime was not enough. Last month, his tone sharpened. Communiques he circulated to Iran’s Kurds urged them to emulate the rebellious Arab tribes in Ahwaz province and cities of Khuzestan in southern Iran.
The Iranian authorities are wary of bring the hammer down to crush the Khuzestan Arab revolt, fearing a bloodbath would spark world protest. They are in a similar fix with regard to Iranian Kurds in the north.
Turkey is always the first to sound the alarm whenever Kurds are an issue.
Our sources report that Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan notified Washington in a secret demarche last month that US-Turkish relations would suffer if the Americans persisted in training Iranian Kurdish guerrilla units for insurgent combat. He reminded the Americans that Turkey, Iran and Syria are joined in a mutual accord obliging each to intervene if any of the three is threatened by rising independence fever in its Kurdish minority. The US government brusquely rejected Turkey’s intervention and replied that the training camps in Iraq were none of Ankara’s business.
The increasingly sour tenor of US-Turkish relations was part of the rationale for Erdogan’s out-of-the blue trip to Jerusalem last week. The Turkish prime minister wanted Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon to try and persuade Washington to listen to Turkey’s point of view. The Turkish prime minister laid stress on the strong American interest in maintaining the Israel-Turkey strategic partnership. He noted that this tied in with both nations’ interest in Kurdistan.
Our sources report that Sharon has no plans to plead Turkey’s case.
Syrian president Bashar Assad, on the other hand, has taken action to stem any spillover of the American initiative against Iran. Last week, he ordered Syria’s security forces to start arresting Kurdish activists in northeast Syria.