Iran appears to be poised for a large-scale invasion of Iraq to lay hands on and crush the anti-government Kurdish rebel havens in Kurdistan’s northeast mountains. The backbone of this movement is the Kurdistan Free Life Party – PJAK, although it contains other elements too.
They plague the Islamic regime by infiltrating Kurdish villages in Iran for sabotage, assassinations and hit-and-run attacks on government targets and road vehicles.
Saturday, August 18, three ominous steps narrowed the gap between the Revolutionary Guards units stationed in northern Iranian Kurdistan and West Azerbaijan, and a final showdown:
1. A concentration of 30,000 troops advanced to a line 35km long on the Iraqi border, from Mashk-an in the north to Soghaniu in the south, directly opposite PJAK sanctuaries around Haji Homarani in Iraqi Kurdistan.
(See attached map –
2. The limited clashes infringing on Iraq soil gained in violence.
That same Saturday, the Iranian news agency Mehr claimed an Iranian army helicopter which came down killing six Revolutionary Guards members had been engaged in a military operation against PJAK. It had crashed into a mountain in bad weather in northern Iraq.
No, said PJAK sources: the helicopter was destroyed after attempting to land in a clearing they had mined. They also claimed to have killed five other Iranian soldiers as well as a pro-Iranian chief by the name of Hussein Bapir.
3. Iranian “intelligence” was circulated through communications lines to Iraqi Shiite militias claiming the Israeli Mossad had supplied PJAK with shoulder-borne anti-air missiles as well as missiles against tanks described as “long range.”
The bulletin implicitly warned the militias to beware in case those Israeli missiles turned up elsewhere in Iraq or even in Iran.
Mossad accused for the first time
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources note that Tehran has never before named Israel as having a hand in any of Iran’s insurgencies. With regard to the uprisings and unrest in the ethnic Arab oil-rich Khozestan province, Baluchistan or the Turkomen regions, the Iranians always accuse the United States, Britain and anti-Iranian Iraqi agents of meddling – never Israel, until now. This mention opens up the possibility that Israel’s external intelligence service has found a way to bring succor to the Kurds and other restive Iranian minorities, thereby giving Iran a taste of the proxy war medicine it administers to Israel via Hizballah and Palestinian terrorists.
4. There are other indications that Iran is preparing to go for the PJAK sanctuaries in Iraq’s mountainous Haji Homarani.
Tuesday, Aug. 21, helicopters dropped leaflets over Kurdish villages in northeastern Iraq, to warn villagers to evacuate the area between the Iranian border and Suleimaniya ahead of an Iranian military offensive against Kurdish rebel hideouts there.
Hundreds of villagers fled their homes while others hid in caves after reporting intermittent shelling from Iran, apparently an Iranian softening up exercise.
The next day, Tehran denied dropping the leaflets, which were written in Kurdish apart from the words: “The Islamic Republic of Iran.”
5. According to our sources, Iranian and Turkish middle-rank commanders discussed cooperation for wiping out their respective Kurdish rebel havens in northern Iraq, the PJAK and the PKK Kurdish Workers Party of Turkey, in meetings near their border this week. Tehran’s proposal was relayed to Ankara, but so far the Turkish government and high command have not reached a decision on how to act.
Turkey thinks twice before joining forces with Iran
The Iranians would much prefer to coordinate their major assault with a parallel Turkish campaign. The Turkish PKK is in fact the progenitor, sponsor and cashier of the Iranian branch.
Tehran proposes a pincer movement by the two armies to lock in both the PJAK and PKK fighters – the Turks pushing in from the west and north of the Qandil mountains and the Iranians coming in from the East. The fighters of the two rebel movements would be forced south into the arms of the Kurdish authorities in Irbil. Tehran would then demand the fugitives’ handover against a threat of a deeper Iranian invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Tehran will wait no more than a few days for answer from Ankara. If it is not forthcoming, Iran will go it alone.
Turkey’s past experience of cooperation with Iran against Kurdish rebels is not favorable.
More than once, Tehran held up its participation in mid-offensive to pressure Ankara into surrendering Iranian opposition activists afforded asylum in Turkey.
An Iranian invasion of northern Iraq now would be its first direct military action in a part of Iraq under US military protection.
Tehran has launched more than one incursion into Iraq against Mujahedin Qalk dissidents. They were usually small-scale forays without heavy weapons. Now Iran is on the verge of a major military offensive backed by armor and aircraft with the object of destroying bases and killing or capturing Kurdish rebels.
Baluchi rebels use Pakistan for sanctuary
During Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki‘s talks in Tehran earlier this month, Iranian leaders could not get him to promise to put down the PJAK and other opposition groups operating from Iraqi Kurdistan. He claimed he lacked the military strength for such operations while the other dissident groups, like Mujaheddin Qalq, were under the sole protection of the Americans and he had no say in the matter.
The Iranians countered that PAJK was supported monetarily and logistically by the United States as leverage against Tehran’s nuclear program and as a step to promote the downfall of the clerical regime.
The Iranians put forward similar arguments regarding the continued guerilla operations of the Baluchis in southeast Iran.
Their leader, Abdolmalek Riggi carries out his strikes in Iran from bases in Pakistani Baluchistan with the full support of the local population, and even possibly local officials.
Riggi and his band of rebels is a constant thorn in the side of the Islamic Republican regime in Teheran. On Aug. 18, Riggi’s followers threw up roadblocks on the main highway from the port of Chah Bahar, torched three tanker trucks, destroyed two heavy vehicles and wrecked several private cars. They also took 12 Iranians hostage and absconded with them across the border into Pakistan.
Two days later, a gunfight erupted there between Pakistani security forces and the hostage-takers, some of whom were killed. The Iranian hostages were set free and returned home.
The great fear in Tehran is that the United States, by its overt and covert activities, will succeed in orchestrating a combined campaign of resistance against the regime by Iran’s various ethnic minorities. This would force the Revolutionary Guards to scatter units to the four corners of the country, thereby dissipating its strength and encouraging more groups to rise up against the government.