Middle East War Spilling Over Into Iran ??

Middle East War Spilling Over Into Iran ??

Christof Lehmann (nsnbc) : Iranian Kurdish Peshmerga fighters clashed with the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards northwest of the city of Piranshahr on Saturday. Tensions between Kurds and the Revolutionary Guards increased after clashes two weeks ago. The war in Syria and Iraq is spreading into Iran, as part of a complex geopolitical chess game involving Iran, Israel, Russia as well as core NATO members.


More than 30 members of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard were reported killed by militants of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Iran (KDP-I), report KDP-I sources. No KDP-I casualties were reported, even though there may have been casualties. The clashes erupted when Iranian Kurdish fighters launched an attack at a security center in Piranshahr, where troops of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRG) were stationed.

KDP-I sources report that the attack was launched in retaliation to the arrest of dozens of “Kurdish activists” by Iranian authorities in western Iran. KDP-I militants bombed the security center in Piranshahr on Saturday. The attack was reportedly also launched as a “preemptive measure” because IRG units have allegedly been preparing to storm two predominantly Kurdish villages near the city. The attack focused on the IRG headquarters at the security center.

The KDP-I is one of the two more preeminent Kurdish parties and militia in Iran and closely allied with the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. The KDP-I has an estimated 2,000 fighters located Iran, near the border to northern Iraq. The KDP-I is widely considered as the preeminent Kurdish organization opposing the Islamic Republic in Tehran.

Small, sporadic clashes, many of them unintended, have been ongoing for years. tensions rose after more severe clashes erupted on June 15, and a new round of more severe clashes in the middle of September 2016. Earlier this month a 20 minutes-long fiefight between KDP-I Peshmerga fighters and members of the Revolutionary Guard erupted after one of the Kurdish militants stepped on a mine where after Revolutionary Guards reportedly began firing at the Kurdish fighters.

The Revolutionary Guards were repelled but two Peshmerga fighters, Azad Ali and Amir Nafir were reported as killed while another one was injured. At least six Iranian Revolutionary Guard members were reportedly killed in the firefight. The increased fighting in Iran comes as Iran has significantly increased its indirect as well as direct military presence throughout Iraq as well as Syria. Iranian backed militia have in recent month repeatedly clashed with northern Iraqi Peshmerga as well as with Syrian Kurdish PYG fighters organized in the YPG and the all-female YPJ.

Iranian military forces lately increased their military activities in the western part of Iran. Military activities reportedly focus primarily on Oshnawieh, Sardasht and Piranshahr while Tehran’s relations with the semi-autonomous northern Iraq turns increasingly sour. The KDP-I reports that the incident with the mine and the subsequent firefight with the Revolutionary Guards as well as increased attacks against KDP-I officials and fighters by the Revolutionary Guard which preceded the incident led them to the decision to launch retaliatory attacks against the air bases near the city of Bokan.

Fighters of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan’s (PDK-I), however, also clashed with Revolutionary Guard units and attacked air bases near Bokan. The PDK-I released a statement, explaining that:

“These operations were conducted following a number of terrorist attacks and ambushes against PDK-I’s Peshmerga Forces and the party’s officials in eastern Kurdistan by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). .. The Iranian authorities also carried out a wave of executions of Kurdish political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, beside killing Kurdish civilians on a daily basis.”

The clashes between Kurdish fighters in Iran and Iranian Revolutionary Guard units occur within a complex geopolitical context with national, regional as well as international actors involved, as explained in part in the article entitled “The Kurdistan Factor”.

Syria – Iraq War Spills Over Into Iran: The Geopolitical Context

Massoud Barzani

The renewed clashes and the escalation of the fighting between the KDP-I and the IRG strongly indicated the war in Syria and Iraq has begun to spread into Iran.

Tensions between the Iraqi federal government in Baghdad and the government of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq have reached a boiling-point as Kurdish Peshmerga fighters linked to Barzani’s KDP increasingly face the presence of Iranian troops and Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi’ite militia in the region within the context of the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh). In August 2016 Barzani stated that an independent Kurdistan was the only viable remaining solution.

The KDP in northern Iraq, for its part, is being politically and otherwise supported by the United States, other core NATO member States, as well as Israel and Turkey. Turkey and the KDP also helped finance ISIL by “laundering” stolen Syrian oil from Deir Ez-Zor via northern Iraq and Turkey while the European Union, in April 2013 lifted its embargo on the import ban on Syrian oil, provided that it comes from “rebel-held territories”.

The KDP-I, for its part, is allied to the KDP, and it is noteworthy that core KDP-I leadership members are based in the UK and that prominent KDP-I “analysts” are based in Israel.

Support of the KDP and KDP-I by the USA, other core NATO members and Israel is widely perceived as part of a NATO strategy that aims at creating a zone of low-intensity conflicts spanning from the eastern Mediterranean via northern Syria, northern Iraq and Iran, along Russia’s southern flank to northern Pakistan. Part of this concept is commonly described as the “Kurdish Corridor”. (see map below)

The United States also actively provides military and other support for Syria’s PYD and its military wings, the YPG, the all female YPJ, and a broader alliance that also encompasses other Syrian ethnic minorities, fighting under the banner of the YPG dominated “Syrian Democratic Forces” or SDF. Relations between the KDP in Iraq and the PYD in Syria are tense and cooperation is sporadic and opportunistic or pragmatic.

The establishment of a Kurdish State with breathing straw access to the Mediterranean. Map plottings by Major (r) Agha H. Amin.
The establishment of a Kurdish State with breathing straw access to the Mediterranean. Map plottings by Major (r) Agha H. Amin.

US “ally” and NATO member Turkey, however, designated the US-backed PYD and its military wings as terrorists. The complexity of the situation becomes even more obvious when one considers that the now US-backed PYD is a traditional ally of Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The PKK has, since it began its armed insurrection against the Turkish State in 1986 enjoyed the goodwill and other support from Russia (initially the USSR) as well as from Iran. Moscow perceived and continues to perceive the PKK as “asset” not unlike NATO’s “stay behind armies”, that is useful in the case of a conflict between Russia and Turkey or Russia and NATO.

Being a traditional ally of Moscow, Syria has tolerated the PKK allied PYG and its military wings within the framework of the same strategy directed against Turkey and NATO, while Damascus never fully recognized the PYG as legal or legitimate part of the Syrian political discourse.

However the complex nexus of Kurdish alliances and agonies turns out is uncertain. What is certain is that it is safe to say the Middle East war, involving the territories of Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Iraq, now also has spilled over into Iran. That is, a development that was forecast in nsnbc international’s 2012 article entitled “The volatility of Gas, Geo-Politics and the Greater Middle East. An Interview with Major Agha H. Amin“.

About the Author

Christof Lehmann – Dr. Christof Lehmann is the founder and editor of nsnbc.