Monday, 5 September 2011

Kurdish rebel groups agree to coordinate operations against Iran

On 3rd September Kurdish militant groups fighting in Turkey and Iran announced that they are coordinating their activities, following an upsurge in attacks by the Iranian and Turkish militaries.

The Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), which operates in south-eastern Turkey, and the Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK), fighting in north-western Iran, will combine forces against the Iranian military in response to an onslaught against their safe havens along the borders with Iraq.

The PKK, of which the PJAK is a subsidiary, announced the move, stating that “the goal of Iran is eliminating the Kurdish people, and not the PJAK party, and these are the reasons that led us to take this decision”.

Iranian forces, spearheaded by the elite Revolutionary Guard, launched a major offensive against the PJAK in July. Reports indicate that dozens of rebels and Iranian soldiers have been killed in the fighting. Meanwhile Turkey began its own offensive after the PKK ambushed a number of military convoys in the volatile south-east.

Both operations have seen numerous cross-border attacks into northern Iraq. Turkish warplanes have bombed dozens of targets in the Qandil Mountains in Iraq, whilst Iran has sent ground forces over the border to destroy PJAK bases. The government of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region has complained about both the military incursions and the continuing provocations by the PKK and PJAK, which have used the mountainous region as a base for many years.

On 9th August the PKK's leader Murat Karayilan told Kurdish media outlets that he was withdrawing PJAK forces from the Iranian border to PKK camps as a “unilateral measure to prevent any further attacks”. However in the same statement he announced that PKK forces would be based on the border instead, and did not wish to fight Iran but would do so if Iranian forces attacked PKK units.

The latest statement seems to amount to a declaration of war by the PKK against Iran. This suggests much greater practical coordination between the militant groups in the future, which in turn is likely to be met with increased cooperation by the Turkish and Iranian militaries. This raising of stakes will mean more cross-border operations and increased diplomatic tensions, both with the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq and the central government in Baghdad.

Sources: AFP, Today's Zaman, Hurriyet, PRESS TV

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