Thursday, November 01, 2007

Iran Has Been Shelling Kurdistan

This is old news, from time to time I read about the pressure the US can impose on Iran and one lever of pressure is secessionist movements. With the Kurds being responsible for pressuring Iran from their side.

Let's call this a typical report from May 2007:

Iranian forces bombarded Kurdistan's (northern Iraq) rugged Qandil mountains with mortars on Wednesday, targeting PJAK Kurdish guerrillas, a local official said.

The barrage lasted much of the day and targeted several villages, said Hussein Ahmed, the mayor of Bashdar, one of the targeted villages.

"I expect there will be both human and material losses, but I don't know right now the extent of the damage," he told reporters.

The Iranian army entered Kurdistan (northern Iraq) and was shelling the Hajiumran area, reported by PUKmedia news site.

PEJAK, took up arms for self-rule in the country's mainly Kurdistan province northwestern of Iran. Half the members of PEJAK are women, many of them still in their teens

Iran says the US is assisting the PJAK. If the US is not, I wouldn't be able to figure out why not given that the PJK is the only group that is actually killing Iranian soldiers in any significant amounts.

I've never actually seen PJK abbreviated that way. It's always been PEJAK or PJAK. I don't speak Kurdish. Does PEJAK really have a different name from PKK that operates in Turkey? There probably is some difference in names. But this is an important point. If the US arms PEJAK and PKK comes to PEJAK offices offering money or other assets for those arms, there is no way PEJAK turns down its brothers. Turkey claims it has found US-made weapons among the PKK. This is one of many ways it could have gotten there.

PKK and PJK really are effectively the same organization. Either reaching its goal would immensely help the other. They have the same tactics, ideological base, funding sources and community of sympathizers. They just operate on different sides of the same mountain range. The US being in alliance with one effectively means the US is in alliance with both. I expect Erdogan to make that argument very forcefully in Washington this week.

While I'm here, let me address Kurdish aspirations for independence. In general, I am opposed to non-Western secessionist movements. My opposition is on the basis that small countries are easy to play against each other and inherently weak. If China was a bunch of small tribal fiefdoms, they'd all be poor. They'd all be non-actors on the international stage. They'd all be ineffective at protecting their interests, even as they define them.

Between Turkey and Iraq, I'd rather see one country than three countries. Israel favors secessionist movements for the exact same reason. And the US, on Israel's behalf, is currently working on turning Iraq itself into three countries, all relatively week, all relatively poor, all non-actors on the international stage, in all ineffective at protecting their interests, even as they define them.

But I have no animus against the Kurds. As much as I say it is bad policy for the US to alienate Turkey by strengthening the hands of the Kurds, the point I'm making is not that Turkey is morally right to mistreat the Kurds but that the United States is strategically wrong to jeopardize an important alliance.


Arnold Evans said...,2933,308637,00.html

In northern Iraq, Osman Ocalan, brother of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, told AP that some fighters had moved toward Iran, and that there were now more PKK fighters there than in northern Iraq.

"PKK forces are split into three parts situated in Turkey, Iraq and Iran," he said. "If there is Turkish pressure on our forces in Iraq, the fighters will head toward Iran."

I've never heard of a PKK attack in Iran. My best guess is that when PKK attacks in Iran it is called PJAK.

Arnold Evans said...

US support for PJAK has reached the status of open secret. And the links between PJAK and PKK are now being openly acknowledged.

Iran accuses Washington of backing the group, and while the US denies this, local and foreign intelligence sources say the accusation is most likely true. According to a former US Special Forces (SF) commando currently based in Iraq who spoke on condition of anonymity, Special Forces troops are currently operating inside Iran, working with insurgent forces like the PJAK. "That's what the SF does," he said. "They train and build up indigenous anti-government forces."