October 7, 2021
The military adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned Wednesday that Iran would not accept “any bordering country” hosting “anti-Iran terrorist groups.”
“We warn that we will deal with counter-revolutionary groups anywhere on the borders around our country, where governments host them and provide them with facilities and weapons,” Major-General Yahya Rahim-Safavi told Defa Press, news agency of the Iranian Armed Forces.
Rahim-Safavi, a former commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), called in particular on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq not to allow bases for such groups.
In recent days, Iran has also been warning neighboring Azerbaijan about what it alleges are foreign jihadist groups near its borders. The accusation goes back to last year’s Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict when reports emerged of Arab Sunni militants fighting on the Azerbaijani side.
Several Iranian Kurdish parties committed to autonomy − including the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), Komala and Pejak (the Free Life Party of Kurdistan) − have bases in northern Iraq with varying degrees of tolerance from the Iraqi Kurdish authorities and parties.
On Monday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Iran had lost “strategic patience,” and that both the KRG and the Baghdad government needed to shut down, in accordance with international law, bases where “armed grouplets train to attack Iran.”
Other officials including Major-General Mohammad Bagheri (Baqeri), chairman of the Iranian Chiefs of Staff, and Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib have issued similar warnings to the KRG in recent weeks.
Iran’s armed forces have for decades carried out cross-border attacks on Iranian Kurdish groups in northern Iraq, sometimes prompting the Iraqi Kurdish parties to restrict their activities. The Iranian Kurdish parties have carried out sporadic attacks while concentrating on maintaining a presence inside Iranian Kurdistan.
In June Iran and Turkey conducted joint operations against forces of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its Iranian affiliate, Pejak, in Kurdish Iraq. Iran also bombarded the positions of other Kurdish groups, including the KDPI and Komala.
Iran used combat drones and artillery September 9-10 in repeating these attacks. This came three days after General Mohammad Pakpour, commander of IRGC Ground Forces, had complained to Erbil and Baghdad over the freedom of movement of Kurdish fighters near the border and warned civilians to keep away from the groups’ headquarters to avoid danger.
The Iraqi army chief of staff Abdul Amir Rashid Yarallah on September 21 called Iranian claims over the Kurdish groups “unjustified” and insisted Baghdad “strongly rejects the use of its territory for aggression against its neighbors.” Yarallah asked “everyone to adhere to the language of brotherhood and cooperation in joint relations.”
Iran has options for escalation. Three years ago it fired ballistic missiles at the KDPI headquarters in Koysanjak, northern Iraq, killing at least 16.